Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has placed science, technology and advanced manufacturing front and centre in Labor’s policy structures as a part of a significant shadow cabinet reshuffle ahead of a possible election later in the year.
Mr Albanese unveiled the reshuffle on Thursday afternoon, appointing Richard Marles as shadow minister for Jobs and Science, with the deputy Labor leader signalling science and technology as the most important microeconomic reform that Australia needed to pursue.
Ed Husic was also returned to the tech beat as part of the rejig and will serve as shadow Industry and Innovation minister, taking the Industry reins from Brendan O’Connor – who moves to Defence – and the Innovation lead from Clare O’Neil, who is moved to the aged-care services portfolio.
Mr Albanese said Labor will focus on “secure jobs and secure incomes” and that he hopes to form government with this shadow cabinet.
“I’m interested not so much in being in Opposition and what titles people have, I’m interested in getting rid of the one word that’s the bad word from the titles of the people I’m about to inform you,” Mr Albanese told the media.
“That one really bad word is shadow. I want to remove that, and I want to move us to the corridor down the end of this building.”
Mr Marles’ new role will encompass National Reconstruction, Employment, Skills and Small Business, along with Science. Addressing the media on Thursday afternoon, he flagged a significant focus on innovation for Labor this year.
“As modern economies around the world have climbed the technological ladder when it comes to manufacturing, Australia has stood still,” Mr Marles said.
“If we are going to become a high-tech manufacturing country which generates the kind of jobs that we need – if we’re going to become a country like Korea or Germany, we are simply going to have to change the way in which we see science,” he said.
“Science is going to have to become front and centre in our national discussion. As a nation we have to change our cultural relationship to science and I really look forward to being able to tell that story in the lead up to the next election.”
Labor will focus on improving Australia’s long-running commercialisation woes, Mr Marles said.
“Right now, we are amongst the worst [for] commercialisation of research in the OECD. If our Olympic team performed at that level there would be a royal commission. As long as that [statistic] exists, we will not be building a modern manufacturing base in this country which generates the kind of jobs that we need,” he said.
Senator Louise Pratt has been appointed as shadow assistant minister for Manufacturing and will serve under Mr Marles.
Shadow Home Affairs minister Kristina Keneally has had Government Accountability added to her portfolio, with Pat Conroy to serve as her shadow assistant minister.
Mr Albanese also appointed Chris Bowen as shadow assistant minister for Climate and Energy, replacing Mark Butler in the role, who will be taking on the Health and Ageing portfolio.
Madeleine King has been promoted to the Trade and Resources portfolio, with Senator Murray Watt to serve as shadow minister for Queensland Resources and Matt Keogh to cover Defence Industry.