In naming his second ministry on Sunday, Scott Morrison unveiled dramatic changes to the federal service delivery structures, as well as a new communications minister and steady-as-she-goes continuity in the Industry portfolio.
The Prime Minister said a key focus of government across all portfolios would be on improving service delivery, making better use of technology and better integrating delivery across the portfolios.
The government would create a new agency – Services Australia – modelled on the successful Service NSW delivery model pioneered in New South Wales.
Services Australia would be built on the Human Services portfolio and run by a new Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert as a Cabinet-level position. Mr Robert has also been named as Minister for NDIS, giving him responsibility for delivering the challenging National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Karen Andrews retains her Cabinet seat as Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, while former Optus executive Paul Fletcher has been shifted from Family and Social Services to become Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts.
But it is the renewed focus on government service delivery that is most interesting about the new Morrison Ministry. The devil will be in the detail, and there are sure to be significant machinery of government changes to come.
It is unclear, for example, what the immediate impact on the Digital Transformation Agency, will be. But those people with an interest in digital transformation in government will welcome the appointment of a cabinet-level minister.
Mr Robert’s effectives replaces the former Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan, who retired at the election and had been a member of the outer ministry.
The Prime Minister has nominated himself as Minister for the Public Service, sweeping responsibility for public sector reform in to the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio, and will take direct responsibility for the government response to the David Thodey-led review of the APS.
Greg Hunt, who was reappointed as Health minister, was also appointed Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Cabinet.
These are strong signals from Scott Morrison that government will get serious in this term on digital transformation, which has been an area of frustration – if not on-going failure – for the Coalition over a significant period.
“I want to see congestion-busting not only on our roads and across our major cities; I want to see congestion busting when it comes to bureaucratic bottlenecks and regulatory bottlenecks, so Australian can get access to those services in a more timely and efficient way for them, making better use of technology and better integrating service delivery across portfolios,” the Prime Minister said.
“The goal is to make it easier to deal with services that Australians rely on. And so today we will also be establishing a new organisation called Services Australia, built on the Human Services portfolio.
“Services Australia will pick up its lead from a similar organisation established by the New South Wales Government called Services New South Wales, which I think has been a very important reform in New South Wales and made dealing with government much easier.
“It’s also about driving better use of information technology and apps that can assist Australians to better access services they need.”
Mr Robert is one of the few parliamentarians with a background in technology. After a military career, Mr Robert completed a MBA and then a Masters in Information Technology and founded an IT services company GMT Recruitment.
He has not been without controversy, having resigned from the Turnbull ministry – where he was Minister for Veterans Affairs and Minister for Human Services – in 2016 over a travel allowance scandal. More recently he ran into trouble over claiming broadband costs at his home of up to $2,000 a month.
The industry will welcome the return of Karen Andrews to the industry portfolio, if only because it stops the revolving door of ministers since the Coalition was elected in 2013 under Karen Andrews.
“Karen Andrews, as Minister for Industry, Science and Technology will work closely with industry stakeholders to create more and better paid jobs in traditional and emerging industries, and to continue championing science, technology, engineering and mathematics as key career paths for women,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister said he intends recommending that Arthur Sinodinos be appointed as Australia’s next Ambassador to the United States, and that former Communications minister Mitch Fifield would be appointed as Ambassador to the United Nations.