Labor reshuffle sees Husic take on startups, Rowland lose Communications


news A portfolio reshuffle announced by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten this afternoon has brought both good and bad news for Australia’s technology community, with tech-focused MP Ed Husic taking on additional responsibilities for digital innovation and startups, but Michelle Rowland losing her Assistant Minister role in the Communications portfolio.

Husic is well-known for his engagement with Australia’s technology sector and is one of the driving forces behind the ALP 4 Innovation group which has driven a strong engagement with the local tech startup sector. He was also the mastermind of the IT price hike inquiry which called a number of technology giants such as Apple and Microsoft before the Parliament.

In the Labor reshuffle announced this afternoon, Husic retained his role as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Treasurer, but also added a role as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, assisting with Digital Innovation and Startups.

This role will see Husic going up against Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Christopher Pyne, as well as his Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy. Both have recently been engaging with Australia’s technology startup sector, although neither has as deep a background in engagement with technology issues as Husic does.

However, the technology sector will lose Michelle Rowland, who had previously been Assistant Minister to Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare. Rowland is one of the most experienced telco policy experts in the Federal Government, with a legal background that has seen the MP work on National Broadband Network contracts.

Rowland is known for her energetic attacks on the Coalition Government regarding its Multi-Technology Mix model for the NBN. The Member for Greenway has received a promotion and will now be Shadow Minister for Small Business.

“Demonstrating Labor’s commitment to small business, Michelle Rowland will join the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Small Business, and continue in her role as Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism,” said Shorten.

“Michelle is a fierce representative of Western Sydney, one of the most diverse and economically exciting communities in Australia, and I have no doubt she will bring those insights and her trademark advocacy into the Shadow Cabinet.”

Other changes to note is that new MP Terri Butler — who has shown a great deal of interest in the tech sector and is co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of the Internet group — has been promoted to a couple of Shadow Parliamentary Secretary roles, firstly working with Canberra Senator Katy Gallagher on child safety and prevention of family violence issues, but also alongside Husic as a Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to Shorten himself.

Dr Jim Chalmers will become Shadow Minister for Superannuation and Financial Services, Shadow Assistant Minister for Trade and Investment, Shadow Assistant Minister for Productivity and Shadow Minister for Sport. Chalmers’ role may see him touch on technology issues.

Overall, great news for Australia’s tech sector — many of the MPs that have shown connections with technology issues are moving on up the ranks. Interestingly, Labor is now relatively packed full of tech-focused MPs, in significantly greater numbers than the Coalition.

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


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