Porter the fifth Industry minister in five years


Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

Embattled Attorney-General Christian Porter is set to become the new Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the fifth person to hold the position in the five years as part of a significant cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Mr Porter, who is currently on mental health leave after historical rape allegations were made against him – which he has denied – will be the government’s new Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, taking over from Karen Andrews, who has been promoted as the new Home Affairs minister.

Linda Reynolds, who is also on medical leave due to a heart condition, has been moved from the Defence portfolio to take over as Minister for Government Services and the NDIS with responsibility for the government’s digital strategy.

Christian Porter
Christian Porter: Australia’s newest Minister for Industry, Science and Technology

The two ministers had been expected to be shifted from their portfolios due to ongoing controversies and who are on medical leave – Mr Porter and Ms Reynolds – have been moved into two of the most prominent tech and innovation-focused roles.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the cabinet reshuffle on Monday after a tumultuous month for the government.

Mr Porter will be the fifth Industry minister in the Coalition government in the last five years, and the seventh Industry minister since the Coalition won government in 2013.

Ms Andrews had brought some much-needed stability to the role, having served as Industry minister since late 2018, and has taken on a significant plank of the government’s planned economic recovery from COVID-19 in the advanced manufacturing strategy and manufacturing modernisation fund.

While Ms Andrews is a trained engineer, Mr Porter has worked primarily as a lawyer before entering politics, including for commercial firm Clayton Utz and as a senior prosecutor at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Western Australia.

Mr Porter is in the midst of legal action against the ABC over its reporting of the historical rape allegations made against him.

Ms Reynolds will take on the Government Services portfolio, taking the myGov rebuild, digital identity program, Digital Transformation Agency and the government’s wider digital strategy under her remit.

Ms Reynolds has been on health leave since February due to a heart condition and has recently faced criticism over her handling of the alleged rape in Parliament House of a former member of her staff.

Ms Reynolds was forced to apologise after it was revealed she had called the former staffer a “lying cow”.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has been moved to the Defence portfolio, to be replaced by Mrs Andrews, who will now also have responsibility for the government’s cybersecurity policies.

The reshuffle marks a significant promotion for Ms Andrews, who will now reside over the super-ministry of Home Affairs. She will be only the second Home Affairs Minister, with Mr Dutton having held the reins since it was created in late 2017.

Among other roles, Ms Andrews will now be responsible for the roll-out of the government’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy and other policies in the space, with the absence of a standalone cyber minister.

Government Services minister Stuart Robert had been widely tipped to take Home Affairs, but has instead been handed the Employment, Workforce and Skills portfolio.

Current Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Michaelia Cash will be replacing Mr Porter in the role of Attorney-General.

Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy Jane Hume will have women’s economic security added to her role, while defence industry minister Melissa Price will be promoted to Cabinet.

Minister for Women Marise Payne will be leading a new cabinet taskforce looking at key issues involving women’s equality, safety, security and wellbeing, which will feature all of the female members of the ministry. Ms Payne will be “effectively the Prime Minister for Women”, Mr Morrison told the media.

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