Australian Government coat of arms

Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Changes to the Ministry

20 September 2015


Prime Minister


New Ministry


Good afternoon everybody. Today I'm announcing a 21st Century Government and a ministry for the future. The changes I'm announcing are very extensive. So let me describe them to you.

The Honourable Scott Morrison will be appointed Treasurer. He's held the key economic portfolio of Social Services as you know and he has introduced significant  forms to ensure our generous social welfare safety net is more efficient, easy to understand and sustainable. He'll be a member of the ERC and of the National Security Committee of Cabinet.

Now Christopher Pyne will be appointed Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. Christopher is going to be at the centre, as is the whole Government, of one of our most important agendas.  If we want to remain a prosperous, first world economy with a generous social welfare safety net, we must be more competitive, we must be more productive.  Above all we must be more innovative. We have to work more agilely, more innovatively, we have to be more nimble in the way we seize the enormous opportunities that are presented to us. We're not seeking to proof ourselves against the future. We are seeking to embrace it. And this is a Government and a Ministry that has that as its focus. Christopher's department, the Ministry for Industry, Innovation and Science will drive the Government's focus on investing in science; promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic education; supporting start-ups and bringing together innovation initiatives right across Government. He will continue as Leader of the Government in the House.

Senator the Honourable Marise Payne will be appointed Minister for Defence, the first woman to be Minister for Defence in our nation's history. Marise is one of our most experienced and capable Senators.  She has spent two years in the Human Services portfolio and has done an outstanding job in modernising Government service delivery. She will release the Defence White Paper later this year, defining our key national security priorities and she will of course join the National Security Committee of the Cabinet. There will be two women on the National Security of Cabinet, Julie Bishop and Marise Payne.

Senator the Honourable Michaelia Cash will join the Cabinet also as Minister for Employment, Minister for women, and Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service.  She has led the Government's policy development on women's issues especially in regards to our response to the scourge of domestic violence.

The Honourable Kelly O'Dwyer MP will be appointed the Minister for small business and the Assistant Treasurer, a position which has been elevated to  Cabinet. Of course, the Assistant Treasurer is in effect the Minister for revenue and is responsible for the tax system which is at the very centre of our whole productivity agenda, indeed at the very centre of the small business agenda. It is vital we have a tax system that is fair, efficient and creates the right incentives so that we can get the gains in productivity we need.  She will also be appointed to the Expenditure Review of Cabinet.

Arthur Sinodinos, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, will be appointed the Cabinet Secretary, a post to be reintroduced into Cabinet. I said a few days ago that it was critical that we restore traditional Cabinet Government. The gold standard of good Coalition Cabinet Government was during the Howard Government and as you all know, Arthur was at the centre of that as John Howard's chief of staff for over a decade. 

Senator Simon Birmingham will be appointed the Minister for Education and Training. He's moved quickly and effectively to lead the transformation of the vocational education and training sector as Assistant Minister. He'll oversee the transfer of child-care responsibilities to the Education portfolio and he'll be responsible for education and development from child-care through to schools, higher education and vocational training.

The Honourable Christian Porter MP will be appointed Minister for Social Services. He is a former Treasurer and Attorney-General for the State of Western Australia. He is a formidable lawyer with strong public finance experience. He has got a strong record of managing large Budgets and making service delivery much more efficient. He will also be appointed to the Expenditure Review of Cabinet.

Senator the Honourable Mitch Fifield will be appointed Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts. He'll oversee the transfer of the Arts portfolio to that Ministry to better align the funding and administration of support and incentives for our creative industries.

The Honourable Josh Frydenberg will be elevated to Cabinet as Minister for Resources, Energy, and Northern Australia. Northern Australia is another key element of our agenda going forward. Josh Frydenberg is a powerful advocate. We have a great story to tell on Northern Australia. It is a region of immense opportunity. It needs a powerful advocate and there are few that can match Josh's dynamism and passion for change and for the development of our nation.

Senator Brandis who remains of course the Attorney-General, has been appointed Leader of the Government in the Senate and Senator Mathias Cormann remains the Minister for Finance, has been appointed Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. 

Now, this is a process of renewal. As you will have gathered there are some very big changes in the Cabinet, there are now five women in the Cabinet. But renewal of course, the introduction of new talent that exists, means that others have to leave.

One of the great challenges for any leader is to ensure that there is renewal. That we do - we are able to bring up new talent, new faces, into leadership positions over time and that often means, that invariably means in fact, that very capable people have to move on, stand aside, so that others can come through. And that's tough for everybody concerned.

Now, earlier today the Honourable Joe Hockey told me that he would not be seeking a place in the new Ministry and it was his intention to resign from the Parliament in due course. Joe has made a long and distinguished contribution to our nation's Government and Parliament over many, many years. For which I thank him. I believe he has a further contribution to make in our nation's service.

The Honourable Eric Abetz, the Leader of the Senate is also - will not be reappointed and I thank him very much for his service as I do the Honourable Kevin Andrews, the former Defence Minister whose position will be overtaken by the appointment of Senator Payne.

Bruce Bilson, an outstanding advocate for small business, has chosen to not to take up an offer that I made to him to serve outside the Cabinet. That is his call, he has been a very, very capable Minister and he wants to take some time to reflect and I thank Bruce very, very much for his service.

Ian Macfarlane is one of my very, very best friends in this place. As indeed is Senator the Honourable Michael Ronaldson who departs the outer Ministry. Each of them were ready to continue to serve in their current positions which they were fulfilling with great distinction and competence. But each of them understood the need to renew, and they gave me their leader and their friend, the opportunity for them to stand aside so that I could bring new talent into the Ministry. I want to thank them for the great contribution each of them has made. All of the departing Ministers have made over many year, particularly thank them for the way in which they have facilitated these very important changes.

Just turning to changes elsewhere in the Ministry. Liveable, vibrant cities are absolutely critical to our prosperity. Historically the Federal Government has had a limited engagement with cities and yet that is where most Australians live, it is where the bulk of our economic growth can be found.

We often overlook the fact that liveable cities, efficient, productive cities, the environment of cities, are economic assets. You know, making sure that Australia is a wonderful place to live in, that our cities and indeed our regional centres are wonderful places to live, is an absolutely key priority of every level of Government. Because the most valuable capital in the world today is not financial capital, there's plenty of that and it's very mobile.

The most valuable capital today is human capital. Men and women like ourselves who can choose to live anywhere. We have to ensure for our prosperity, for our future, for our competitiveness, that every level of Government works together, constructively and creatively to ensure that our cities progress. That Federal funding of infrastructure in cities for example is tied to outcomes that will promote housing affordability.

Integration is critical.  We shouldn't be discriminating between one form of transit and another. There is no -- roads are not better than mass transit or vice versa, each of them has their place. Infrastructure should be assessed objectively and rationally on its merits. There is no place for ideology here at all. The critical thing is to ensure that we get the best outcome in our cities.

Now of course, we have a Minister for Regional Development and the Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, but cities have been overlooked, I believe, historically from the Federal perspective. So within the Ministry of Environment, I'm appointing the Honourable Jamie Briggs MP to be the Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, to work with Greg Hunt, the Environment Minister, to develop a new Australian Government agenda for our cities in cooperation with States, Local Governments and urban communities. 

Responsibility for child-care will move from the Department Social Services to the Department of Education to give the Education Minister overall carriage of childhood education and development through to higher education and vocational training.

As you know, responsibility for water will move from the Environment portfolio to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, which of course Senator - Barnaby Joyce I should say - is the Minister, and Senator Anne Ruston from South Australia will be appointed the assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.  And I should say just on a point of nomenclature I've decided that Parliamentary Secretary titles should be more meaningful, they are in fact assistant ministers and they should be called Assistant Ministers and as a former Parliamentary Secretary I know that that will mean that they won't have to spend much of their time explaining what a Parliamentary Secretary is. Titles should mean something.

Well let me also say that this is a very talented Ministry, the full details of which will be available to you. I can make some other firsts, I've mentioned that Marise Payne will be the first woman appointed Defence Minister. Kelly O'Dwyer is the first woman to be elevated to Cabinet within the Treasury portfolio.  And Ken Wyatt MP will be the first indigenous MP to be appointed to the Federal Executive Council.  Ken will be the assistant Minister in this health portfolio working with Sussan Ley.

So my friends, what we have today is – as I said right at the outset – a 21st century Government and a Ministry for the future. Very big changes to meet very big challenges to help all of us seize very big opportunities. Thank you very much.


Prime Minister did you offer Joe Hockey a senior position?


Joe, I’ve said as much as I can on Joe Hockey's position, Joe - I can't add to what I said earlier.




Again you can address any questions you like to Joe but I've said all I can do on that.


[Inaudible] broom through the joint. Does that mean you're prepared to look anew at current policy positions say on tax reform and so forth and put everything back on the table in your pursuit and debt and deficit and so forth? Are we going to see a complete renewed look at policy as well?


Well Phil any government operating in modern, rapidly changing, disruptive environment like the one we all live in today, has got to be prepared to formulate new policies and review existing one but I don’t want you to mischaracterise this. You know, there is a tendency in the - there is a disconnect sometimes between the political discourse and the real world where any change to a policy is seen as a back down or a backflip or concession of some mistake.

Let me say this to you.  When people ask me "do you guarantee this policy will work?" I can only say to them "I guarantee this is the best policy we can formulate at the time to meet the challenges as they are today." I can also guarantee you that if we feel that policy is not effective, or could be improved, we'll change it. And I know that seems curious to say in a political environment, most politicians don't stay things like that but if you talk to people in the street or around about, it's common sense, we are in a rapidly changing environment and we have to be prepared every day, every single day, to ask ourselves: Will we remain competitive if we keep doing things the way we did yesterday? We've got remain on the balls of our feet that’s absolutely critical.

Agility is a vital element in our success as a Government, in our success as a nation and the success of each and every one of view and each and every business large and small in this country.


Is the promotion of the assistant Treasurer into Cabinet mean you've got a major focus on tax reform through to the next election? Will you take a tax reform plan to the people at the next election? With the Treasury portfolio changing, will you have to put back MYEFO?


The focus on -- look any Government, every Government, and certainly my Government, has a major focus on tax reform. The tax system is one of the key levers the government has to promote economic activity, depending on how it is used or how it’s designed it can either incentivise productivity or it can actually work as a disincentive. We won't go into a discussion on the economics of different tax policy, but it is a critically important thing.

I have to say, I've always felt that the Assistant Treasurer which is a term of art, but it is a role that is so important, so critical, to economic policy. I've always felt it's a position that should be in the Cabinet, because whenever you are talking about economic policy, tax is right at the centre of it. We'll take two more. First, Lenore.


Following what you answered to Phil, what are your riding instructions to your new ministers about things that are part-heard in the process? The higher education reforms from the first Budget, the whole family and child care package from the second Budget? Do you want them to take stocktake and think about those things, or are they supposed to proceed with the policy part-way through the system?


Well Lenore I’m the Prime Minister, I'm not the president. We have a Cabinet system of government. It's a collective form of decision making. I am absolutely determined, that is one of the many reasons why Arthur Sinodinos is to be the Cabinet secretary. I'm absolutely determined that we have a proper consultative Cabinet system and all of those issues will be considered. But enticing though your invitation is, I'm not going to respond with some direction or writing instruction to my ministers from this lectern.


Peter Dutton survived, Eric Abetz goes and Kevin Andrews. How will you keep unity and can you comment please on Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz?


Well, I want to thank Kevin and Eric for their service; it’s very tough to make those calls, but that's what leaders have to do. You have to have turnover and renewal. I give you an example – the other day, one of the most talented business women in our country Gail Kelly stood down as Chief Executive of Westpac. She could have continued doing that job for a decade, of course she could have. But she knew and her directors knew that you needed to have renewal, you need to have renewal in any organisation and what that means is people who are doing a good job stand aside so that new people can come through otherwise you get no change. It is vital to have a contemporary 21st century government and that requires renewal.


Which portfolios do you intend to keep in the National Security Committee of Cabinet and I think three if I am right, if you were to keep the same mix, three of the seven are leaving. Doesn't that necessarily mean that carriage of our major security decisions could have quite a different character going forward?


Well the security interests of the Australian Government are very clearly and well understood by all of the minister and indeed all of the senior officials, whether they are uniformed or not. Australia’s strategic interests; government’s come and go, ministers come and go, our strategic interests remain very consistent. Now you've asked me about the NSC, I'll answer that question. The members of the NSC and myself, the Treasurer, Mr Morrison, the Deputy PM Mr Truss, the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the Defence Minister Marise Payne and the Attorney-General, George Brandis.


On innovation can I ask one quickie? With Christopher Pyne and his job, one of the criticisms of last year's Budget was that there was this focus on the medical research element of things when of course, research and development is often beyond the medical sphere. Do you envisage a reappraisal of that approach to look at, for example, research for research's sake in all sciences as well as elsewhere?


Yes I acknowledge the very thoughtful question you’ve asked me. Let me answer it this way. We do a lot of great things in Australia. We do a lot of great research and development, a lot of great science. One of the things we do not do well at all is the collaboration between primary research, typically in universities, and business. We're actually the second worst in the OECD, so it is, that is a very, very important priority to make a change to that.

Now a lot of this change is cultural. It is really important for leaders, for prime ministers, for ministers, for people in the media to talk about the importance of change, to talk about the importance of science, to talk about the importance of technology. We are living in the 21st century. We are living in a world that has been transformed in a very short period of time by science. 

Many, if not most of the largest and most transformative businesses in the world today, if they were humans, would still be at school, many of them still at primary school. The pace of change is remarkable and we have to acknowledge that. We have to be a government - and we are a government, we will be a government - for the future. That is critical.

You saw in the Canning by-election where Andrew Hastie won so well and I congratulate Andrew on his victory. You saw how the Labor Party was trying to frighten the citizens of Canning back into poverty, trying to scare them about the future. Imagine saying to people, ‘Oh you can't, you don't want to engage with China, it's all too big and scary’. The fact is that the free trade agreement as with so many opportunities that have been created in the region are the underpinning fundamentals for our prosperity. But we have to have courage, we have to have optimism.

We have to make sure that people understand that we have the values, the character, the commitment, the intellect, the imagination to be able to grasp the future, seize those opportunities. There has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian than today and I believe that today I've announced the team, the Government, the Ministry, a 21st Century Government. A Ministry that is ready to engage the future.

Thank you very much.