BARNABY Joyce will remain Agriculture and Water Resources Minister until at least the next federal election to maintain continuity and build stability following recent upheaval for the Coalition government.
Mr Joyce bucked a long-standing National Party tradition by holding the agriculture portfolio as leader - rather than Trade, Transport or Regional Development - following the naming of Malcolm Turnbull’s ministry reshuffle yesterday.
Changes were needed following the retirement of Warren Truss which saw Mr Joyce appointed National Party leader unopposed on Thursday night and NSW Senator Fiona Nash voted-in as the new deputy-leader.
Senator Nash became the party’s first female senior leader in its 95-year history and was rewarded with an expanded cabinet portfolio, with a sharp focus on broader regional responsibilities.
She will continue as Rural Health Minister but also gains Regional Development and Regional Communications, which Mr Joyce said were all “of vital importance to regional Australia”.
“Improving outcomes for people living in our regions when it comes to mobile phone black spots, access to internet and health care as well as economic opportunities remains a priority for the Nationals,” he said.
SA Liberal Senator Anne Ruston will remain the Assistant Agriculture and Water Resources Minister while first-term Queensland MP Keith Pitt was named the Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce.
With Queensland National Party members demanding stronger senior representation, Senator Matt Canavan was also appointed to the Outer Ministry as a dedicated Minister for Northern Australia.
Mr Joyce said being based in Rockhampton and a former Productivity Commission economist, his former chief of staff Senator Canavan was well equipped to address the region’s challenges and would work closely with Josh Frydenberg, as the senior portfolio cabinet minister who also retained his Resources and Energy Ministry.
NT Senator Nigel Scullion will remain Indigenous Affairs Minister and Victorian Nationals MP Darren Chester was given a significant promotion to be appointed the new Infrastructure and Transport Minister.
Mr Joyce, Senator Nash, Senator Scullion and Mr Chester comprise are the four National party cabinet members.
While some members were rewarded by the new leader, others were not as fortunate.
NSW Nationals MP Luke Hartsuyker - who was one of seven party members who contested the deputy-leadership - was replaced as Vocational Education and Skills Minister by Liberal Senator Scott Ryan.
Mr Turnbull said Mr Hartsuyker was not featuring in the National Party's ministerial line up on this occasion but was, “a great parliamentarian, a great coalitionist and he will be missed”.
NSW Nationals MP Michael McCormack - who announced shortly before the National party’s leadership ballot meeting that he would not be challenging Mr Joyce for the title - was given Mr Chester’s former role as Assistant Defence Minister.
Previously, Mr McCormack was the Assistant Minister to Warren Truss as the Deputy Prime Minister and Regional Development and Infrastructure Minister.
Last month, he announced a nationwide consultation process to develop regional growth policies ahead of the next election which some critics viewed as a cynical move to raise his media profile, ahead of a potential leadership challenge.
In other changes, Liberal MP Steven Ciobo was named Trade and Investment Minister to fill the void created by Andrew Robb’s shock retirement announcement last week.
However, Mr Turnbull said Mr Robb would be a Special Envoy for Trade between now and the next election to support the new minister’s transition and to utilise his contacts and experiences in singing recent agreements.
The PM also elevated highly regarded rural Liberal MPs Angus Taylor and Dan Tehan who were unfortunate to miss-out on posts in the first Turnbull ministry; named after Tony Abbott was dumped as Liberal leader last September.
Mr Taylor was appointed Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation while Mr Tehan becomes the new Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Materiel.
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck retained his role as the Minister assisting the Trade and Investment Minister and Minister for Tourism and International Education.
Mr Joyce said after gauging the aspirations of his New England electorate and the wider community he decided to retain the Agriculture and Water Resources portfolio.
“I believe the work that I have started with my department to turn around soft commodity prices, in implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the significant investments we are making in water infrastructure should continue,” he said.
“In my role as Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals I will of course be advocating on behalf of all regional Australians and across all areas of government.”
Mr Joyce said Mr Pitt had “extensive business and farming experience and will be a welcome addition to our ministerial team”.
“These are all portfolios that are important to the people of rural and regional Australia,” he said.
“This is a strong Nationals ministerial team with the skills, vision and experience to achieve the outcomes that our constituents demand and we will all work hard for the betterment of our nation.”
National Farmers’ Federation President Brent Finlay said the new Turnbull ministry elevated MPs with an understanding of agriculture, regional Australia and associated issues into portfolios that were “critical” to the industry’s ongoing success and growth.
Mr Finlay said it was now crucial agriculture be one of the federal government’s policy and economic priorities as Australia headed towards an election.
Following Mr Turnbull’s reshuffle, also sparked by the loss of thee ministers in recent months for various indiscretions, Scott Morrison remains Treasurer and Kelly O’Dwyer the Small Business Minister and the Assistant Treasurer.
Mr Turnbull said he didn’t anticipate any further changes to the ministerial line up, ahead of the election.
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