Innovation axed from ministry

The industry portfolio has been given a bit of nip and tuck with the removal of the word ‘innovation’ ahead of the beauty contest that is the looming federal election, whenever that is.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has excised Innovation from the ministry altogether as part of the Cabinet reshuffle that followed inevitably last week’s weird coup.

Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity has also been chopped as a ministry, while the Home Affairs and Digital Transformation portfio has been demoted to an outer ministry role – and hence Michael Keenan being dropped from Cabinet.

Queensland MP Karen Andrews, who was Science minister in the original Abbott Ministry, has been promoted into the Cabinet as the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.

Ms Andrews becomes Australia’s sixth industry minister since the Coalition won government at the 2013 election, and the third since January last year.

Ms Andrews was a Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Science in the original Abbott government, and under former Prime Minister Turnbull was first assistant minister for science, and later assistant minister for vocational education and skills.

It’s hard to imagine the Innovation portfolio was considered a barnacle to be removed before the next poll, but that is the conclusion of many. The former Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation under Malcolm Turnbull Zed Seselja has been moved from the portfolio to become Assistant Minister for Treasury and Finance.

Of course there are many winners and losers in this reshuffle. In the portfolios of most interest to the science, technology and innovation sectors, the key movements are:

  • Michaelia Cash loses the Industry portfolion, but remains in ScoMo’s first Cabinet as Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education
  • The former Minister for Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Angus Taylor is promoted to Cabinet into the key Energy portfolio. Mr Taylor’s promotion comes just eight months after being put in charge of cyber – and in the middle of a massive restructuring of Australia’s cyber defence structures
  • Former Optus executive Paul Fletcher gets a promotion into the Cabinet as a Minister in the newly created portfolio of Families and Social Services
  • Michael Keenan retains his role as Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation, but has been dropped from Cabinet and shifted into Paul Fletcher’s new Families and Social Services portfolio. The demotion means that Mr Keenan no longer chairs the digital transformation committee of Cabinet and comes at a time when digital service delivery and its agency comes under intense pressure amid a series of high profile tech failures
  • Mitch Fifield remains steady-as-she-goes as Minister for Communications and the Arts
  • Dan Tehan is promoted to Minister for Education
  • Christopher Pyne becomes Minister for Defence, while former Trade Minister – Queenslander Steve Ciobo – is moved to the key Defence Industry portfolio. Mr Pyne remains the government’s Leader of the House.
  • Former Defence Minister Marise Payne takes the coveted role of Foreign Minister while the well-liked South Australian former Education Minister Simon Birmingham takes the key Trade portfolio.
  • Matthias Cormann remains as Minister for Finance and the Public Service, as well as the government’s Leader in the Senate.
  • Former Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation industry favourite Craig Laundy has been dropped entirely from the Ministry and moves to the backbench
  • Our new Treasurer is Josh Frydenberg

Of all the movers in the current shuffle, Karen Andrews is the most significant bolter in relation to our sector, returning to run the Industry portfolio after having been a junior minister on the original team in the heady days after Malcolm Turnbull made Innovation a centrepiece of his government.

Ms Andrews holds a bachelor of mechanical engineering degree from the Queensland University of Technology.

For those who are keeping count, the Coalition has appointed six different Industry ministers since 2013. They are Ian MacFarlane, Christopher Pyne, Greg Hunt, Arthur Sinodinos, Michaelia Cash and now Karen Andrews.