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New small business minister named in cabinet reshuffle

The federal government has announced a new minister for small and family business as Prime Minister Scott Morrison reshuffles his cabinet and promotes more women.

Member for Fadden Stuart Robert has been named Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, replacing his predecessor Michaelia Cash who has been appointed the new Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations. 

In a press conference on Monday (29 March), Mr Morrison said: “Minister Robert will take on the job of a critical area for the government’s economic strategy... We have a massive challenge in this country to get the workforce this country needs to do the things we want to do, whether it’s build naval ships, whether it’s to ensure we have the aged care and disability care workforce we need, that we have the number of mental health professionals, whether they be as psychiatrists or counsellors or nurses, the rural workforce we need, the systems engineers we need for our defence procurements. 

“We have an enormous workforce challenge, whether it’s in our rural and regional areas or the particular areas we need in advanced sciences and other areas to support our manufacturing industries. Workforce is a big piece of our economic puzzle that we must get firmly in place. That combined with Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Minister Robert will take those portfolios on with a great deal of experience, having run his own business as well, including as an employment business, he knows full well how to pull a team together and create a workforce to do the job. 

“So, as Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, he will be a key participant in the government’s economic recovery strategy,” the Prime Minister said.

When asked about Mr Robert’s appointment in a press conference on Monday, Mr Morrison added that he believed he had done an “outstanding” job as Minister for Social Security during the coronavirus crisis, which justified his promotion.

“When people have had to rely on him for services, rely on him for payments... he’s delivered for them, and that’s why he’s in my cabinet,” Mr Morrison said.

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The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Bruce Billson welcomed the new appointment, saying: “I look forward to working with Minister Robert and his team to help make Australia the best place to start and grow a business.

“Australia is a nation of small and family businesses, who have endured a challenging 12 months.

“It has never been more important to ensure small and family businesses are supported to help lead the nation into recovery.

“Minister Robert has a background in business and therefore has firsthand knowledge of what it takes to own and operate a growing company.

“I’m certain the vibrant and energetic Gold Coast small-business community have been keeping Minister Robert, as a local MP, well appraised of the challenges and headwinds they are facing,” Mr Billson said.

He concluded: “We look forward to working with Minister Robert on small-business policy as well as a range of important issues for small and family enterprises. 

“I also thank former Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Michaelia Cash for her commitment to supporting the small-business sector over the past two years.”

Ms Cash replaces Christian Porter, who will be the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.

Mr Billson commented: “She has done a fantastic job [as small business minister] and I wish her well in her new role as Attorney-General.”

Cabinet for Women’s Safety

Several female politicians have been promoted to senior roles in the reshuffle.

Karen Andrews, MP for the division of McPherson, has been appointed Minister for Home Affairs, replacing predecessor Peter Dutton, who is now the Minister for Defence.

The former Minister for Defence, WA senator Linda Reynolds, takes on the role of Minister for Government Services as well as Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Other changes include Melissa Price, member for Durack, taking on the defence industry portfolio and Sussan Ley, member for Farrer, who will be the new Minister for the Environment.

Victorian senator Jane Hume adds the portfolio of Women’s Economic Security on top of her existing portfolio of Superannuation, Financial Services and Digital Economy, while Marise Payne remains as Minister for Women on top of her existing role as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The ministerial changes come following several recent scandals surrounding workplace culture and the treatment of women in Parliament. 

As such, Mr Morrison said that the reshuffle would “shake up what needs to be shaken up while maintaining the momentum and the continuity and the stability that Australia needs as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession”.

A new position has been created within cabinet called Minister for Women's Safety, which is being filled by Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston.

He said: “[W]hat we must do is address the government’s agenda with the changes that we’re making and do so, I think, with a fresh lens and a fresh lens, in particular, to achieving the outcomes, the results that we all want for Australian women across the country. 

“Getting these results for Australian women will be achieved through collaboration. They’ll be achieved through listening. They’ll be achieved by acting together. They won’t be achieved by dividing Australians and setting them apart and having further conflict. It will be achieved by Australians coming together to deal with these very serious and significant issues. The changes I’m announcing today will once again provide the strongest ever female representation in an Australian government cabinet. But it’s not just about the size of the female contingent in my cabinet, but it’s the skills and the experience, it’s the perspective, and it’s the collaboration they bring to our nation’s most difficult tasks.”

He continued: “This is about getting the right input. This is about getting the right perspective. It’s about getting that lens on the policy challenges that we’re facing in the policy development and delivery work that needs to be undertaken and doing so in those key agencies of government that are so important for achieving this change.”

[Related: Financial Services Minister takes over CDR rule making]

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