Prime Minister Julia Gillard has left key tech-related ministerial positions untouched in a conservative cabinet reshuffle announced this week.
“I became Prime Minister because I believed it was important to get the government back on track,” Gillard said at a press conference today. “In considering the question of a reshuffle, I have determined that it is best to have as limited a reshuffle as possible to keep the maximum stability amongst the team, and to keep our focus on the work that Australians need the government to be doing.”
Only two changes were made to the Prime Minister’s new cabinet, with Simon Crean assuming Gillard's previous responsibilities over the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace. Stephen Smith will add the foreign affairs portfolio to his existing responsibilities as Minister for Trade.
However, the two positions of most interest to the tech community - the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation - remain untouched. That leaves Senator Stephen Conroy as communications minister, despite some media lobbying Gillard to split the portfolio or completely replace Conroy with Labor senator, Kate Lundy.
A spokesperson for Lundy told Computerworld Australia was unavailable for comment due to an injury sustained over the weekend, but would be unlikely to comment on public speculation about possible future positions. Some have also questioned her current allegiances - including the fact that her husband is Competitive Carriers’ Coalition director, David Forman - as obstacles to her assuming the role.
While public pining for Conroy’s replacement are largely derived out of fears over a mandatory ISP-level Internet filter being implemented for Australian users, key leaders in the tech industry have voiced support for the minister who launched the National Broadband Network (NBN).
The Department of Finance and Deregulation, under which government IT consolidation lead the Australian Government Information Office (AGIMO) sits, will also remain in the hands of Lindsay Tanner. Tanner announced last week he would not contest his electorate at the next Federal election, saying his decision had nothing to do with the Labor leadership spill which saw Gillard oust Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister.
Gillard reiterated the Labor party’s focus would remain on being reelected, and pushed away questions that failing to reshuffle Tanner or announce his post-election replacement would hurt the party’s opinion ratings.