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The new federal ICT leadership

by Pallavi Singhal •
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Mitch Fifield has been appointed the Minister for Communications and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for digital government, under ministerial changes announced by the new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Fifield will also become Arts Minister, taking over the portfolio from George Brandis and overseeing its transfer to the Communications Ministry “to better align the funding and administration of support and incentives for our creative industries”, according to Turnbull.

In his capacity as Communications Minister, Fifield will oversee the rollout of the National Broadband Network, which is being implemented in stages with the goal of connecting eight million premises by 2020.

Fifield’s appointment as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for digital government indicates Turnbull’s continued involvement in implementing streamlined public sector service delivery through the newly-established Digital Transformation Office (DTO).  The DTO's establishment was Turnbull’s responsibility as Communications Minister in the Abbott government.

The DTO, which was announced in January 2015, is modelled on the UK Government Digital Service and aims to promote the centralisation of various agency services, initially through the implementation of a single digital mailbox for all local, state and federal government interactions, and the increased use of the myGov portal.

The Prime Minister’s contined responsibility for digital government illustrates the degree of emphasis the Turnbull government will maintain on digital government. Turnbull is Australia’s only Prime Minister with extensive experience and knowledge of the ICT industry. In addition to his experience as Communications Minister, he was also one of the founding investors in OzEmail in 1994, one of the country’s first ISPs.  

Fifield was elected to the Senate in 2004 and has since held positions as the Manager of Opposition Business and Manager of Government Business in the Senate, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Carers and the Voluntary Sector and the Shadow Minister for Disabilities, Carers and the Voluntary Sector. In September 2013 he became the Parliamentary Secretary for Social Services. In another of his changes, the role of Parliamentary Secretary has been retitled to Assistant Minister by Turnbull.

Former Education Minister Christopher Pyne will also play a role in government technology as the newly-appointed Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science.

“Christopher [Pyne] is going to be at the centre, as is the whole Government, of one of our most important agendas,” Turnbull said at the unveiling of his new ministry.

“Above all we must be more innovative. We have to work more agilely, more innovatively, we have to be more nimble in the way we seize the enormous opportunities that are presented to us.

“We're not seeking to proof ourselves against the future. We are seeking to embrace it.”

Pyne also highlighted the importance of new technologies to Australia’s future growth in a statement on his new role.

“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,” Pyne said.

“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.”

Additionally, Paul Fletcher, previously Parliamentary Secretary to Turnbull as Minister for Communications, has been promoted to Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects.

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