Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Head's New Team - Mr Rudd announces his new ministry

I managed to get a fair bit of the ABC video stream announcement by Mr Rudd on the new ministry.

We won't know the exact delineation of the boundary lines between the portfolios until the Administrative Orders come out, presumably next week. In the meantime, I thought that I might make a few comments on some of the portfolios I am most interested in, pointing to the things that I think are most significant.

In Canberra speak, the central coordinating agencies are those with cross service responsibility.

Here we start with Mr Rudd's Department, Prime Minister and Cabinet. In addition to Mr Rudd we have, presumably, John Faulkner as Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary. Now a ministerial level Cabinet secretary position is new, so I do not yet know how this will fit in.

Mr Rudd is also supported by Anthony Byrne as Parliamentary Secretary to the PM plus Maxine McKew as Parliamentary Secretary to the PM with responsibility also for early childhood and childcare. These responsibilities seem to belong to other portfolios. This cross-linking appears elsewhere, suggesting that Mr Rudd is seeking to introduce a matrix management system.

Then we have Treasury (Mr Swan) and Finance (Lindsay Tanner).

Treasury Secretary Ken Henry has already established a reputation for independence. Now Mr Rudd says that Treasury has been underutilized and he wants the Department to play an active role in new microeconomic reform.

This will sound like manna from heaven to the Department. The key issue in my mind is the capacity of the Department to distinguish between microeconomic reform and its traditional nay-saying role. I will expand on this at a later point.

Julia Gillard gets a new super-portfolio of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. This combines Education and Industrial Relations. In the short term, workplace relations is likely to dominate.In the slightly longer term, Ms Gillard has to deliver on Mr Rudd's education revolution.

The social policy area is one of the potential winners out of the changes.

Mr Rudd's language was interesting here. He spoke about his social policy team. He also referred specifically to housing and homelessness.

The key minister is Jenny Macklin as Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. She is supported by Joseph Ludwig as Minister for Human Services and Tanya Plibersek as Minister for Housing and the Status of Women. I suspect that Bill Shorten as Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children Services may also fit here.

I am hopeful that we will be able to get some new policy approaches in this area.

One appointment that surprised me was that of Anthony Albanese to Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, supported by Gary Gray as Parliamentary Secretary Infrastructure - Northern and Regional Australia.

This is a key portfolio for those living outside the metros. I have not met Mr Albanese, only heard or seen him. Accepting that he has had to play a Labor hard man role in previous statements, I find it hard to see him appealing to regional people without a major change in language and style.

At a personal level, I was very interested in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry because my wife, Denise North, is on the Board of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, so is likely to have some contact with the new minister. Here the appointment was Tony Burke.

As a former senior official with the Commonwealth Industry Department, I was also especially interested in the industry and communications portfolios.

The industry function has been regrouped, combining Innovation, Industry, Science and Research under Kim Carr. I think that this is a good combination, somewhat equivalent to the old department before the rolling changes.

Communications has become Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy under Stephen Conroy. I suspect that some of my old colleagues are going to be quite pleased with this change.

As so often happens, I have to cook tea so will stop here with the changes only half done. I will pick some of them up at a later point.


For those interested, you can find a full list of of positions here.

No comments: