WA gets second IT minister this year

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WA gets second IT minister this year

Stephen Dawson takes portfolio from Don Punch.

Western Australia has a new Minister for Innovation and ICT in Stephen Dawson following a cabinet reshuffle last week.

Dawson takes the portfolio from Don Punch, who was appointed Minister for Disability Services, Fisheries, Innovation and ICT, Seniors and Ageing following the government’s re-election in March.

Punch will continue as Minister for Disability Services, Fisheries, Seniors and Ageing, and has also picked up the Small Business portfolio.

Premier Mark McGowan announced the changes as WA prepares to enter the next phase of the pandemic reopening when border restrictions are relaxed next year.

“These portfolio changes are about getting the balance right across the cabinet and sharpening the government's agenda as we enter the next phase of the pandemic,” he said.

In addition to ICT and Innovation, Dawson will also assume responsibility for the portfolios of Emergency Services, Medical Research and Volunteering.

He previously held the Mental Health, Aboriginal Affairs and Industrial Relations and was the the Minister for Environment and Disability Services and Minister for Electoral Affairs before that.

Dawson takes the portfolio at a time when the government is creating a $500 million digital capability fund in the 2021 budget to upgrade legacy IT systems and improve cyber security.

When the fund was created, McGowan said it “would ensure service delivery keeps pace with public expectations and protects key agencies against cyber attacks and operational threats”.

In the mid-year budget review last week, the government revealed where $277 million of the funds would flow, building on the $35.7 million it provided in the 2021 budget in September.

Dawson was first elected to parliament in April 2013, representing the Mining and Pastoral Region – a multi-member electorate that takes in the northern and eastern regions of the state.

He is a former chief advisor to government ministers in both WA and Victoria and worked as the WA state manager for strategic communications agency Essential prior to his time in parliament.

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