Alston successor Mitch Fifield is Australia’s new Communications Minister


news Malcolm Turnbull has appointed veteran Senator Mitch Fifield to be Australia’s new Communications Minister as part of his new Cabinet, with the new Prime Minister’s former Parliamentary Secretary Paul Fletcher leaving the portfolio and current Attorney-General George Brandis to retain his role.

The new Cabinet, announced this afternoon, will also see Education Minister Christopher Pyne moved to become Minister of Industry, Innovation and Science.

Fifield, whose new portfolio will also include the Arts, which had previously been bundled with Communications but had been shifted into the Attorney-General’s Department, is not well-known by the general public, but is an extremely familiar face in Canberra circles.

Fifield join the Senate in March 2004, filling a vacancy in Victoria left by the former Communications Minister Richard Alston. He was re-elected at the 2007 and then the 2013 Federal Elections and has held a number of parliamentary roles.

Most recently, Fifield has been Assistant Minister for Social Services and the Manager of Government Business in the Senate. In this Senate role, Fifield has been a frequent fill-in for Turnbull, taking many questions from the Opposition and the crossbench parties on matters pertaining to the Communications portfolio.

Historically, the Communications portfolio has often been held by Senators, with previous examples including Alston, Helen Coonan and Stephen Conroy.

Fifield was also appointed Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government. It appears this means that Turnbull will continue to have a role overseeing the newly created Digital Transformation Office he created as Communications Minister, working with Fifield on this issue.

Paul Fletcher’s role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Communications Minister has been abolished, and he will move into a different role as the new Minister for territories, local government and major projects.

Pyne is a much better known figure, regularly making controversial comments and attacks on Labor, and has been targeted extensively by the education sector for his planned university reforms. For the past several years he has held a similar parliamentary role to Fifield as Leader of the House in the House of Representatives. Queensland MP Wyatt Roy — who has recently been active in engaging with Australia’s IT startup sector — has also been appointed Assistant Minister for Innovation.

Fifield has not yet issued a statement on the changes. For his part, Pyne said:

“It is a great honour for me to accept the Prime Minister’s offer to become the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science and Leader of the Government in the House of Representatives in the first Turnbull Ministry.

Having served for five years as Shadow Minister and then two years as Minister for Education and Training, I am delighted by this new opportunity to serve in an economic portfolio that is central to the future of our nation.

There has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian, as the Prime Minister has said.

With a sweeping tide of new disruptive technologies that will entirely transform the way we live and the way we work, Australian industry must continue to lead the world in research and innovation, ensuring our nation can seize the opportunities ahead.

We have the researchers, the universities, the institutions such as CSIRO, Questacon and others who are world leading. We have Cooperative Research Centres and Industry Growth Centres and a very wide range of collaborative ventures around the globe. We have a major agenda in the commercialisation of research outcomes.

We have the technical capacity and capability to remain a nation with industries that offer the jobs of the 21st century. As Minister I will be working with industry and our institutions to continue on this course and look forward to the challenges ahead.”

The full Cabinet list has been published online by a number of outlets.

Opinion and analysis to follow tomorrow.

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. Interesting. Fifield presents a bland mouthpiece persona, fond of sprouting party line catchphrases and with little to suggest any imagination or independence whatsoever, perfect for continuing the Vaucluse turncoat’s dirty business with the nbn co/tm/wtf … at least we lose the dangerous ex Optus droid. Pine will happily gut any science areas of innovation and research, giggling like a schoolboy as he goes on his merry way… at least the arts has escaped the clutches of the fat controller…

  2. On a positive note, science is back although I’m not sure Pyne will do anything worthwhile with the portfolio.

    Ps thinking back to Senate hearings, Mitch never seemed to have much of a clue about the NBN so I’m guessing he’s become Turnbull’s sock puppet so he can keep the NBN going his way.

  3. I suspect Fifield has been chosen more for his role as the Govt rep in the Senate NBN Committee and hosing down potential fires rather than any new policies or directions. His contribution to the issues of Communications, Digital/New Economy, etc etc have been singularly lacking.

    Is Turnbull covering his backside? You Betcha! And I think he will be quite happy to see the NBN’s prominence downgraded back to it’s traditional 3rd or 4th level in terms of public/voter awareness.

    • Given that the policy settings for the MTM are in place, I doubt there needs to be a strong personality like Turnbull holding the reins…so I broadly agree with this.

      The policy has everything in place, and Captain Fifield will just keep his hand on the tiller, occasionally seeking guidance from Admiral Turnbull.

  4. The only real positive here, is it’s better than the old crew I think. Time will tell about how they’ll all work, and I agree 100% with Michael Wyres comment…Fifield is just there to see the current settings through…

    George losing Arts will be a popular thing in the arts community I’m pretty sure, he was making a dogs breakfast of it before.

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