Senator Mitch Fifield to oversee NBN rollout as comms minister

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has appointed Senator Mitch Fifield to the communications portfolio as part of the new-look Coalition ministry.

Turnbull, who has been acting as communications minister since he ousted Tony Abbott for the top job, announced the changes to his ministry at a press conference this afternoon.

The appointment means that Fifield will oversee the continuing rollout of the 'multi-technology mix' National Broadband Network.

In addition to becoming communications minister, Fifield will take over the arts portfolio from the attorney-general, Senator George Brandis.

Brandis remains attorney-general and was also appointed leader of the government in the senate.

Fifield was also appointed the minister assisting the prime minister for digital government.

Fifield has been a senator for Victoria since 2004. Prior to the cabinet reshuffle, he was assistant minister for social services and manager of government business in the Senate.

Before becoming a senator, Fifield worked as a political advisor at both the state and federal levels.

The former parliamentary secretary to the minister for communications, Paul Fletcher, has been appointed minister for territories, local government and major projects. His former role no longer exists in the ministry.

"The first thing Senator Fifield should do is take notice of industry and civil society groups, such as Internet Australia, who have the knowledge and expertise to provide balanced advice and assistance to government," Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton said in a statement.

"The data retention act urgently requires attention. It is timed to commence on October 13th and yet many ISPs are still struggling to understand their obligations under this legislation we say is fundamentally flawed.

"We still have no idea how the funding allocated to this initiative will be distributed. In any case, it is well short of the likely actual operating costs which means Internet consumers will be hit with increased user fees."

The organisation also reiterated its objection to recent legislation that allows representatives of copyright holders to apply for court orders to force ISPs to block piracy-linked websites.

Pyne takes on science, innovation

Turnbull appointed Christopher Pyne, education minister under Abbott, to the role of 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," Turnbull said.

Turnbull said that Australia must be more competitive, more productive, and more innovative.

"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 mathematics, education, supporting start-ups and bringing together innovation initiatives right across government," the PM said.

Pyne will continue as leader of the government in the House of Representatives.

"With a sweeping tide of new disruptive technologies that will entirely transform the way we live and the way we work, Australian industry must continue to lead the world in research and innovation, ensuring our nation can seize the opportunities ahead," Pyne said in a statement.

"We have the researchers, the universities, the institutions such as CSIRO, Questacon and others who are world leading. We have Cooperative Research Centres and Industry Growth Centres and a very wide range of collaborative ventures around the globe. We have a major agenda in the commercialisation of research outcomes.

"We have the technical capacity and capability to remain a nation with industries that offer the jobs of the 21st century. As minister I will be working with industry and our institutions to continue on this course and look forward to the challenges ahead."

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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