Turnbull to be the new Australian communications minister

As expected, Malcolm Turnbull will be appointed as the communications minister in the new Abbott government.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Malcolm Turnbull will officially become Australia's new communications minister, after the new government under Prime Minister-Elect Tony Abbott is sworn in on Wednesday.

Image: Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet

Abbott today announced his first ministry, which will include Turnbull in the communications minister role he has shadowed for the last three years.

Turnbull has spent the preceding three years criticising the government's National Broadband Network (NBN) policy for the delays in construction, and what he believed would be a blowout in the cost of the project from AU$37.4 billion to AU$94 billion.

Over time in his former role, Turnbull took the Coalition from a policy of "destroying the NBN" to adopting most of the former government's policy, with the exception of altering the fibre-to-the-premises rollout to a majority fibre-to-the-node policy, which will now require renegotiation with Telstra for access to the last section of copper from the node to the premises.

Turnbull will have assistance from former Optus executive Paul Fletcher, who will become the parliamentary secretary to the minister for communications.

Fletcher appears to have received the promotion despite being responsible for the Coalition's only major policy hiccup in the election campaign, releasing a policy for opt-out internet filtering of adult content for all Australians, only to have Turnbull withdraw the policy five hours after it was revealed by ZDNet.

Turnbull appears to have dropped the lengthy title of his predecessor, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, instead just adopting the title of minister for communications.

The role of regional communications minister, which had been held in the shadow ministry by Luke Hartsukyer and in the former government by Sharon Bird, will not be a role in the Abbott government. Hartsukyer is in the outer ministry as the assistant minister for employment.

Abbott said in his press conference today that he was seeking to move away from the notion that unless an issue is in the minister's job title, it would not be addressed.

"There are some things which are so important, in a sense every minister should be concerned about them," he said.

Senator Mathias Cormann will be the new co-shareholder minister for the NBN with Turnbull, becoming the new finance minister, replacing Labor's Penny Wong. He will also have responsibility for the Finance Department, which contains the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) and the Australian government's chief technology officer, John Sheridan.

There is no ministerial role for science or innovation, but Ian Macfarlane will be the industry minister. The role had been tipped for Sophie Mirabella, but her seat of Indi is currently in doubt.

As had also been expected, George Brandis will become Australia's new Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts. He will be responsible for responding to the Australian Law Reform Commission's review of the Copyright Act due in November. He has already indicated to ZDNet that any changes to the law must favour copyright holders, but the party did not go to the election with a policy around copyright.

Peter Dutton has retained the Health portfolio into government, and Christopher Pyne will keep the education portfolio.

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