Prime Minister Scott Morrison has asserted his post-election authority, with some new faces among those sworn in at Parliament House today.
The agriculture portfolio saw perhaps the most notable shake-up, with Victorian Senator Bridget McKenzie taking on the role of Minister for Agriculture.
McKenzie is the first female to hold the portfolio in the Commonwealth’s history, and hands her former portfolio of Regional Telecommunications and Rural Health to Paul Fletcher as Minister of Communications, and Mark Coulton as Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government.
“Senator McKenzie has been a long-time vocal and effective advocate for reginal and rural Australia,” the National Farmers’ Federation’s first female President, Fiona Simson said.
“She has an in-depth understanding of the challenges, and also the phenomenal opportunities, before our regions and the policies and investments agriculture needs to reach its potential.”
The former Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud has retained key parts of that portfolio – becoming the Minister for Water Resources and the Minister for Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disasters and Emergency Management (subsuming Barnaby Joyce’s role as special drought envoy).
Minister Littleproud will retain his Cabinet seat – creating an additional seat from what was the Agriculture and Water Resources portfolio.
Under Mr Littleproud’s reign as Agriculture Minister agriculture saw bipartisan support for the Murray Darling Basin Plan, the end of $1 litre milk, regulatory reform of the live export trade, announcement of the Biodiversity Stewardship Pilot and Sustainability Certification programs.
“We look forward to the momentum continuing on these important initiatives with Minister McKenzieand working with Minister Littleproud on seeing the continued prosperity of Australian agriculture,” Ms Simson said.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack kept his portfolio as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Regional Development, giving him the opportunity to continue to “help regional communities grow, create local jobs and back our farmers, reginal small businesses and families”.
Sussan Ley returned to Cabinet with the portfolio of Minister for Environment as one of the record seven women holding a Cabinet position. She will be working with Angus Taylor, who continues as Minister for Energy and adds Minister for Emissions Reduction to his remit – taking responsibility for “meeting the 2030 emissions targets”, according to Scott Morrison.
As the ongoing Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham will be on the hook to ratify already-signed free trade agreements with Peru and Indonesia, before turning Australia’s trade focus to the UK and the EU.
Farm labour shortages and ag visa discussions will be at the forefont of the farm sector’s discussions with Michaelia Cash, who continues as the Minister for Employment, Skills and Family Businesses, as well as David Coleman who also stays put in Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.
Scott Morrison’s new ministry will hopefully ensure agriculture remains at the forefront of government decision-making.
“By endorsing our vision for agriculture to be a $100 billion by 2030, the Coalition Government has also shown its commitment to agriculture’s future success and prosperity,” Ms Simson said.
The true test of this new team will come when Parliament resumes – possibly as early as late June.