Major announcements around technology, research and innovation can be expected during the next 12 months following a large-scale reshuffle of the Federal Cabinet by prime minister, Julia Gillard.
The reshuffle will, according to Gillard, help the government focus on tackling transitional challenges in the Australian economy as well as help address issues such as national and cyber security.
“The transition to a clean energy future, the emergence of new technologies and the changes to existing industries to take advantage of new conditions will bring enormous opportunities our nation must be ready to seize,” Gillard said.
“The changes to the Ministry will support a stronger focus on industry, innovation, productivity and participation, to ensure Australia is in the best possible position as we go through this transition.”
According to Gillard, a newly expanded Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education will be established and led by Greg Combet as minister for industry and innovation and Chris Evans as minister for tertiary education, skills, science and research.
Mark Dreyfus will be appointed parliamentary secretary for industry and innovation, supporting Minister Combet, Gillard said.
Former innovation minister, Kim Carr, will now hold the dual role of minister for manufacturing and minister for defence materiel. Carr as recently as last week was spruiking Australian innovation through talking up the country’s potential as a regional Cloud computing hub.
Former attorney general, Robert McClelland, has been replaced by former Health minister Nicola Roxon. McClelland will now take on the role of minister for emergency management, while Tanya Plibersek takes on the Health portfolio.
“The Attorney-General will take on additional responsibility for Privacy and Freedom of Information,” Gillard noted of the changed portfolio.
Only last week McClelland launched the DisasterWatch smartphone app designed to provide the public with the latest information about disaster events. In Late November McClelland and Gillard copped flak from Greens senator Scott Ludlum over going silent on WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange’s decision to appeal his extradition to Sweden.
Brendan O’Connor, who had been focused the push for an R18+ games classification as minister for home affairs and justice, has been moved to minister for Human Services and minister assisting for School Education.
The focus on innovation also comes at a time when state governments are turning to technology to help lift productivity, R&D and economic performance -- such as the NSW government's release of its draft ICT plan, and Victoria's $85m play to continue its lead in ICT, both last month.
David Feeney will remain as parliamentary secretary for Defence, while Mike Kelly will also be appointed a parliamentary secretary in the Defence portfolio and will assist the Minister for Defence.
The reshuffle comes as Defence begins transitioning out of Afghanistan but also through the second year of its massive ICT overhaul aimed at saving $1.9 billion in spending through to 2019.
In a sign of the growing profile of cyber security issues, such as the LulSec’s hacking spree, CyberStorm III exercises, draft cyber security strategy and Australia-UK cyber collaboration, Gillard said she would take a personal interest in ICT security.
“Responsibility for national security research and innovation will move from my portfolio to Defence,” Gillard said.
“Responsibility for cyber security policy will move from the Attorney-General’s portfolio to my portfolio.”