Despite Tony Abbott’s initial promise that there would be absolutely no changes to his frontbench should he win the election, it is becoming increasingly apparent something’s got to give. The most speculated change is in the Finance portfolio, raising the question of who will be the Minister focusing on Government use of ICT?
Mr Abbott is legislatively required to trim his frontbench from 32 ministers to 30. However, his 20-strong cabinet will not have to take a haircut.
Abbott softened his language when pressed on changes to his ministry prior to the election, saying that his colleagues will have “essentially” the same positions as they had as shadow ministers.
“People who are in my team can expect to do more or less the same job in government, should we win, that they’ve done in opposition, because I’ve got a great team”, he said at the release of his manufacturing policy.
It is emerging that one of the strongest possibilities for change is the creation of a Trade and Investment super-ministry, to be headed by Andrew Robb. Robb, who was the Shadow Finance Minister prior to the election, is seen to be a good fit for the portfolio given his knowledge of resource investment.
This also fits with Abbott’s promise to create a Minister for Trade and Competitiveness.
Whether such a new Ministry results in a Machinery of Government (MOG) change that splits the existing Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will not be clear until announcements are made.
Shifting Robb to the new Ministry creates scope for Abbott to take Senator Arthur Sinodinos off the backbench and into the Cabinet as the Minister for Finance and Deregulation.
Sinodinos, who was John Howard’s Chief of Staff from 1997 to 2006, is seen to be a safe pair of hands as Finance Minister following his extensive experience in both the public service and the financial sector.
His potential for promotion to Finance was first made apparent in 2012 when he was moved to the Coalition’s Shadow Expenditure Review Committee, despite assuming office only a year earlier and holding no shadow ministerial responsibilities.
Whilst being well credentialed for the fiscal side of the Finance portfolio, how well would Sinodinos manage the ICT responsibilities?
The involvement of the Department of Finance and Deregulation in ICT is as yet uncertain. At the launch of the Coalition’s ICT policy, Robb appeared to defer this responsibility to then Shadow Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull.
“If we get the privilege of Government on the weekend, Finance does have a role, but the principle role in an Abbott Government in this area [ICT] will be led by the Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull”, stated Robb.
However, Sinodinos might be more willing to step up to the ICT plate and there is no doubt that he has a better understanding of ICT in Government than Robb.
With over 25 years’ experience in Canberra and as Chief of Staff to John Howard for 10 years, Sinodinos is well acquainted with the public service and has an unparalleled understanding of the intricacies and bureaucratic plays within Government.
Sinodinos is also the director of Firestick ICT, a firm that provides IT services to the not-for-profit organisation Aboriginal Employment Strategy Ltd.