Australia gets new govt services, tech ministers

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Australia gets new govt services, tech ministers
Scott Morrison

First shakeup since 2019.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reshuffled his ministry, handing defence minister Linda Reynolds responsibility for the government’s digital agenda under Services Australia.

Reynolds, who will assume the role of government services minister, is one of several new cabinet members to be appointed as part of the reshuffle on Monday.

She will replace incumbent government services minister Stuart Robert, who has held the position since Services Australia was announced in May 2019.

Services Australia, as the government’s central service delivery agency, holds responsibility for IT procurement, policy and services through the Digital Transformation Agency.

Robert will now become the employment, workforce, skills, small and family business minister, which Morrison said was a reflection of his “outstanding job” during the pandemic.

He said Robert was able to “scale up and put in place one of the most significant responses we’ve ever seen from a social security agency in this country, in our history”.

“When people have had to rely on him for services, rely on him for payments, rely on him to ensure that they could get up the next morning, know that that money would be in their bank account, because that's what he was responsible for, then he has delivered for them,” he said.

“And that's why he's in my cabinet, because he can be relied upon to deliver the services that Australians indeed rely on.”

Morrison pointed to the recent floods in NSW, with Services Australia able to pay out more than $50 million in payments to victims last week alone.

“That happened because of what Stuart Robert was able to put in place at Services Australia. It was a phenomenal achievement,” he said.

“People, now when they ring, can be paid within half an hour. That was first established during the bushfires when he did the same thing.”

Alongside changes in the government services portfolio, Morrison has appointed Attorney-General Christian Porter as minister for industry, science and technology.

Porter is currently on leave after strenuously denying a historical rape allegation.

Industry, science and technology minister Karen Andrews has been appointed home affairs minister, replacing Peter Dutton, who is moving to defence.

As home affairs minister, Andrews will hold responsibility for Australia’s cyber security policy and coordination.

Shadow assistant minister for cyber security Tim Watts said he hoped the appointment would bring a “much needed reset to cyber security policy in Australia which was always at the bottom of Peter Dutton’s to-do list”.

“Minister Andrews faces a considerable first task in navigating the significant and wide-ranging critical infrastructure and systems of national significance reforms,” he said.

“The minister will also face the challenge of explaining why the Morrison government has no plans to protect our democratic institutions, and whether it will develop a national ransomware strategy as Labor has called for.”

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