Prime Minister Gillard has announced a major Cabinet reshuffle to align resources with the “Government’s priorities”, notably issues around climate change, education, the two-speed economy, innovation and health.
There are three new Cabinet appointments. Tanya Plibersek (Health), Bill Shorten (Industrial Relations, Financial Services) and Mark Butler (retains Mental Health and Ageing and includes Social Inclusion).
Kim Carr (Manufacturing and Defence Material) has been dropped from Cabinet and Senator Nick Sherry has resigned from Cabinet.
Julia Collins has been promoted to the Ministry and Sid Sidebottom to Parliamentary Secretary (for Agriculture) – both are from Tasmania and retain Tasmanian representation in the Ministry.
Other major Ministerial changes:
Greg Combet takes on additional responsibility for Industry and Innovation (as well as Climate change) reflecting the “importance of innovation” to solving climate change.
Kim Carr becomes Minister for Manufacturing and Defence Materiel. The Hon Mark Dreyfus, currently Cabinet Secretary and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, picks up additional responsibilities for Industry and Innovation.
Chris Evans will take on the Science and research functions from the former Department of Innovation, Industry Science and Research to go with his responsibilities of Tertiary Education and Skills
Combet and Evans will head the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE)
Tanya Plibersek replaces Nicola Roxon as Health Minister In recognition of the complexity of the portfolio, Minister Butler, who retains Mental Health and Ageing, joins Cabinet. Brendan O’Connor takes on the responsibility for Human Services.
Julia Collins includes Indigenous employment in her responsibilities as Community Services while Jenny Macklin picks up the title of Minister for Disability Reform (to steer the development of the National Disability Insurance Scheme).
Bill Shorten has taken over from Chris Evans’ responsibility for Employment and Workplace Relations.
Robert McClelland will take on responsibilities as Minster for Housing and Homelessness as well as Minister for Emergency Management.
What it means
While taking the opportunity to align Ministerial focus with key areas of priority, the Prime Minister has also taken the opportunity to promote those Ministers to Cabinet who have been strong performers in their existing portfolios (Plibersek, Shorten and Butler). Greg Combet’s additional responsibilities also reflect his performance.
The new mega DIISRTE will be one to watch. While it makes sense to connect the various arms of policy (innovation, education and climate change), the actual mechanics will be difficult. Nor is it clear at this early stage where some issues and indeed industries will fit between the portfolios of manufacturing, innovation and science.
For example the pharmaceutical industry has issues that fall across all three areas and require a co-ordinated approach to grow the industry in an environment of considerable international competition, such as clinical trials.
Tanya Plibersek has been a consistently strong performer for the Government at both the Ministerial level and in media appearances and well deserves her promotion to Health. She follows Minister Roxon who has successfully initiated some major policy changes in the health sector and has the respect of most constituents of the industry.
Tanya Plibersek can be expected to come up to speed quickly but one of her first challenges will be the continuing financial pressure the Department is under, given the growth in health expenditure.
The heavy workload Nicola Roxon dealt with as Health Minister is reflected in the promotion of Mark Butler to the Cabinet while retaining Mental Health and Ageing responsibilities.
Bill Shorten’s appointment highlights the Government’s belief that the area of workplace relations will be a major issue next year and one that requires strong media skills.
See the PM’s announcement here: http://www.pm.gov.au/press-office/changes-ministry
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