Following last week’s political turmoil, new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has appointed his new cabinet. In boosting the number of women from two to five and seeing off Abbott loyalists Kevin Andrews and Joe Hockey, Turnbull has appointed several unknowns to his new team. Among them is Mitch Fifield as the new Communications Minister.
Senator Fifield picks up the role of Communications Minister and Minister for the Arts, collecting that little nugget after it was taken away from Senator George Brandis. Coincindentally, Fifield got his chance in the Senate following the retirement of Richard Alston, a former Communications Minister who was, at one point, derided as the “world’s greatest Luddite”.
Before being appointed as Communications Minister, Fifield was the Assistant Minister for Social Services and the Manager of Government Business in the Senate.
What can we expect from him?
The real question isn’t what Fifield wants to do in his ministry, but what our new tech-savvy Prime Minister will allow him to do.
Under former Prime Minister Abbott’s direction, Turnbull was ordered to “destroy the NBN”. However, we’re not sure the same imprimatur will be operating with this new look government.
Turnbull’s new team has swept away much of the vestiges of the John Howard era. That means, we hope, the rather extreme right-wing policies and ideology that have dominated the government may be significantly softened. As a Leader of the Opposition, Abbott was a master at picking apart and garnering support to not do things. However, Turnbull’s initial commentary seem to be about building and optimism.
That suggests the NBN, among other important digital initiatives such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) education may get a renewed focus. Certainly, the appointment of a Science Minister is a giant step forward, making up for the retrograde step taken by Abbott in appointing a cabinet that, for the first time in Australian history since Federation, didn’t have a Science Minister.
We expect to hear some changes in government policy regarding the NBN. Turnbull’s challenge will be to keep his cabinet informed and to bring the conservative movement along after many years of nay-saying by his predecessor.
If he can manage to do that, a new communications policy has the potential to become a reality. Hopefully, the last two years that have been wasted won’t cost this country for the decades to come.