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Tech Industry

​Turnbull's 'ministry for the future' increases focus on science, innovation

As a new Government front bench is sworn in, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has adopted the language of start-ups to talk about their focus on innovation, agility and technology.

Newly sworn-in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. David Gray/Corbis

Australia's new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a cabinet reshuffle with key changes in communications and sciences portfolios, bringing in what he calls a "21st Century Government and a ministry for the future."

Minister Turnbull stepped down from his post as Communications Minister just one week ago, bringing about a leadership spill that saw him sworn in as Australia's 29th prime minister.

Now that Turnbull has taken the top job, former Assistant Social Services Minister Mitch Fifield has been sworn in as his replacement. The Senator takes on the role of Communications Minister, as well as Arts Minister (formerly held by George Brandis) and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government.

But in addition to filling the vacancy left in the Communications office, Turnbull has sought to invigorate the rest of his front bench. This includes bringing in former Education Minister Christopher Pyne as Industry, Innovation and Science Minister, a title change that in itself shows an increased focus on gearing industry towards the modern economy.

In announcing his new cabinet, Turnbull's showed his communications stripes and adopted the lexicon of the start-up community, talking about meeting the challenges of a "disruptive environment" with "agility" and "innovation."

"It is really important for leaders, for prime ministers, for ministers, for people in the media to talk about the importance of change, to talk about the importance of science, to talk about the importance of technology," said the prime minister.

"Many, if not most of the largest and most transformative businesses in the world today, if they were humans, would still be at school," he added. "The pace of change is remarkable and we have to acknowledge that. We have to be a government...for the future."

In accepting his role as Science Minister, Christopher Pyne name-checked Australia's universities and researchers alongside institutions such as CSIRO and Questacon, saying his new portfolio was "central to the future of our nation."

"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," said Pyne.

"We have the technical capacity and capability to remain a nation with industries that offer the jobs of the 21st century."

Pyne replaces outgoing Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane who has moved to the backbench. Former Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher has moved sideways, taking on the Local Government ministership.

There are also signs that the Government could tweak its approach to national security, an area that has intersected with the technology space recently with the introduction of data retention laws and an increased focus on biometric security.

While Senator George Brandis has lost his duties as Arts Minister, he will continue to oversee the implementation of data retention as Attorney-General, while Minister for Justice Michael Keenan will add duties assisting the PM on counter terrorism to his portfolio.

And after staring down speculation about his future last week, while also announcing a crackdown on tax avoidance by the likes of Google and Apple, Treasurer Joe Hockey has announced he will step down from Parliament altogether. Mr Hockey has been replaced by former Social Services Minister Scott Morrison.