Keenan to quit at election

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James Riley

Whatever the result of May’s federal election, Australia will have a new minister guiding the government’s digital transformation efforts, after Coalition MP Michael Keenan announced he will be quitting politics.

The current digital transformation and human services minister announced last week that he will not contest the upcoming election to spend more time with his family.

Mr Keenan has served in the role since late 2017. As part of new Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reshuffle in August last year, Mr Keenan was removed from Cabinet and replaced as the chair of the digital transformation committee.

Michael Keenan: “After doing this for 15 years, I cannot commit to another term.”

Mr Keenan released the government Digital Transformation Strategy in November, with an aim to make all government services available online by 2025. But the strategy was largely a repackaging of existing policies in a new timeline, with few new policies or strategies.

In a statement announcing his intention to not contest the election, Mr Keenan said Australia is a “world-leader” in the digital transformation space, but “there is always more to be done”.

“We will continue to deliver world-leading digital services for the benefit of all Australians so that government is easy to deal with, while also eliminating the need to deal with multiple agencies or layers of government,” Mr Keenan said.

“We are harnessing the power of data to improve services and make better and faster decisions and we must be accountable for delivering digital transformations that will improve Australians’ lives.”

Mr Keenan said he was leaving politics to spend more time with his family in Western Australia.

“Whilst politics is a proud vocation, it is also a difficult and exhausting business. The pressures on family life are formidable, as are the constant rigors of being an effective Member of Parliament, as well as Minister in the government. I have always worked hard as a Member of Parliament and as a Minister, but after doing this for 15 years, I cannot commit to another term,” he said.

“Over the Christmas break, it became very clear to me personally that times have changed and that this decision was the right one for my family and myself.”

Mr Keenan’s time overseeing the digital transformation portfolio has been plagued by a number of high-profile tech debacles, with a Labor-led Senate report describing a “litany of failures largely unprecedented in scale”.

The report, handed down in June last year, was highly critical of the government’s efforts in the tech space and the role of the Digital Transformation Agency.

“Throughout this inquiry it has become clear to the committee that digital transformation is a policy area beset by soaring rhetoric and vague aspirations by government, largely unconnected to the actual policy activities actually undertaken,” the report said.

“The government to date has been unable to meet even the lower objective of being able to replace ageing infrastructure without major mishap.”

The announcement closely followed jobs minister Kelly O’Dwyer announcing that she would also not be contesting the federal election in order to spend more time with her family.

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