The Australian coalition government has published the fineprint of its ministerial arrangements, revealing what has actually happened to the portfolios that went missing in Tony Abbott’s pared back ministerial titles.
The new Prime Minister himself has taken primary responsibility for women’s issues, which under Labor were handled by the families minister, Jenny Macklin.
“Women’s policies and programs” as well as Indigenous affairs, deregulation, national security and relations with state governments are all specified responsibilities of Mr. Abbott, who has appointed West Australian senator Michaelia Cash as minister assisting the prime minister for women.
“This will ensure that these key whole-of-government priorities are at the centre of government,” said Mr. Abbott in a statement.
The science portfolio — not mentioned in a ministerial title for the first time since the 1930s — seems to sit mainly with industry minister Ian Macfarlane.
The arrangements clarify that “science policy, science engagement and awareness, promotion of collaborative research in science and technology, co-ordination of research policy, creation and development of research infrastructure, commercialisation and utilisation of public sector research relating to portfolio programmes and agencies and research grants and fellowships” are all part of Macfarlane’s brief.
Resources and energy are also part of the industry portfolio.
On Monday, Mr. Abbott said some parts of the science portfolio, relating to universities, would be education minister Christopher Pyne’s responsibility.
Splitting the science portfolio is a “schizophrenic arrangement”, according to Liberal backbencher Dennis Jensen, and the chief scientist Professor Ian Chubb said the delivery of science had already been too fragmented even before the latest changes.
Many of the missing portfolios turned up in the very wide brief of new social services minister Kevin Andrews, who has responsibility for all aged care, disability programmes, housing, all income-support payments and pensions, all settlement services for migrants and refugees and also multicultural affairs. The social inclusion board — which advised the former government on the causes and effects of entrenched disadvantage — is being disbanded.
Mental health is overseen by health minister Peter Dutton and financial services by treasurer Joe Hockey.
And new small business minister Bruce Bilson seems to straddle two departments, with small business policy the responsibility of the Treasury but the delivery of government programmes to small business remaining with the Industry Department.
The new integrated “border protection” approach sees customs move from the attorney-general’s portfolio to the new Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
AusAID is being merged into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Regional development is being combined with infrastructure, and employment and education are being split into separate departments. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013