Gillard takes on cyber security in cabinet reshuffle

James Hutchinson | Dec 12, 2011 10:18 AM
Roxon appointed first female Attorney-General as McClelland sidelined.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has assumed responsibility for the Australian Government's cyber security policy in a wide-ranging reshuffle of federal cabinet announced this morning.

The announcement - ignored in Julia Gillard's speech to media this morning but included in a transcript made available later - will see the Attorney-General's Department lose responsibility for the policy.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said the assumption of cyber security policy was a move to consolidate whole-of-government responsibilities.

It was one of several changes made to cabinet today, sparked by the resignation of Minister for Small Business, Nick Sherry and a shoring up of support for the Prime Minister. It brings the total number of cabinet ministers to 22.

Robert McClelland was replaced as Attorney-General with health minister Nicola Roxon, who becomes Australia's first female in the role.

Roxon will still assume responsibility for several important technology issues, including copyright reform, but she will lose a core aspect of the portfolio which encompasses the ongoing development of a national cyber security strategy, identity theft procedures and a whole-of-government review of departmental security policies.

Those responsibilities could ultimately come under the purview of Kate Lundy, parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister and a key political figure in technology circles in the lead-up to the 2010 federal election.

A spokeswoman for Lundy would not comment on the reshuffle.

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The re-shuffle will likely come as a relief to those in the security and other affected industries, with many commenting that the Attorney-General's Department was ill-equipped to take on cyber security.

McClelland will remain in the cabinet under the newly formed ministries of emergency management, housing and homelessness.

Incoming Attorney-General Roxon was responsible for the development of a telehealth rebate scheme and introduction of legislation for the $467 million personally controlled electronic health record, due for implementation mid-next year.

That legislation will be tabled for debate when Parliament resumes in 2012.

Her health portfolio will be overtaken by Human Services minister Tanya Plibersek, who has overseen part of the massive IT-heavy consolidation of Centrelink and Medicare under the Human Services department.

Gillard said Roxon's appointment would allow Roxon to return to "her first love of the law". She will be charged with carrying on one of her core personal motivations as health minister, pushing forward with plain packaging for cigarattes.

As Attorney-General, Roxon will have to deal with issues including ongoing talks between content owners and internet service providers over a potential industry code to combat copyright infringement, mediated by Attorney-General department secretary Roger Wilkins in recent months.

Carr loses innovation role

The most significant role change came for Senator Kim Carr, who was replaced in his industry and innovation ministry by current climate change and energy efficiency minister, Greg Combet.

Combet will retain both his old and new role while Gillard said Senator Carr would move into his "long-held passion" as minister for manufacturing as well as Defence Materiel.

The position forms part of the outer ministry, Carr's demotion attributed to his ongoing support for former Labor leader Kevin Rudd.

While not mentioning any changes to the Australian Government's stance on innovation reform, Gillard said one of the government's core priorities would be reforming skills programs across the research and tertiary education sectors from next year.