The ministerial reshuffle following the recent Federal election presents new opportunities for business. Particular areas to watch are government services, energy, industrial relations, defence industry, health and indigenous affairs.
It is reasonable to say Australian markets and the Australian electorate were, generally, not expecting the Morrison Government to be re-elected on 18 May. This was reinforced by a plethora of incorrect polling data and the ASX200 index returning to its highest closing in more than 10 years.
The Budget was effectively the Government’s re-election campaign document. It was targeted for this purpose. As such, the Government’s policy direction in areas without a strong political focus are relatively nebulous. That said, two points can be made about future public policy direction.
Firstly, we expect the Coalition to push harder on reforms in traditional areas, namely reducing tax and the size of government more broadly. Personal tax cuts were explicitly announced during the election, however company and other tax reform is likely to be pushed by the Government.
Secondly, looking at the reshuffle can provide some guidance on how the Prime Minister wants to spend the next three years. A number of the most senior ministerial appointments remain unchanged, including Treasury and Foreign Affairs. However, there are several particular ministerial moves which may prove interesting opportunities for the business community.
Ministers and Portfolios worth engaging
Minister for Government Services – Stuart Robert MP
This is a new initiative of the Commonwealth and appears to be modelled on the New South Wales Government’s successful efforts to streamline citizen-facing or customer-facing services into a single point of contact. The Commonwealth has been working in this direction for several years with mixed results, mostly through the implementation of the myGov portal. There might be opportunities for the private sector to assist the Morrison Government with its renewed focus on government services.
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction – Angus Taylor MP
This is effectively a reappointment for Mr Taylor, with emissions reduction added to his title. This signals that emissions reduction is likely to be less of an environmental concern but rather a secondary consideration to energy policy for the Morrison Government. Already, there is media speculation that the Morrison Government will move to quickly approve new coal-fired electricity generators. Such an altered mix in energy policy will change the sector substantially.
Minister for Industrial Relations – Christian Porter MP
This role is an extra ministerial role on top of Mr Porter’s job as Attorney-General. The reasons for this are as yet unclear. One interpretation is that the Prime Minister has given this role to one of the Government’s better performing frontbenchers so as to drive change in Australia’s workplace frameworks over the coming three years.
Minister for Defence Industry – Melissa Price MP
The Defence Industry role has been moved out of Cabinet but the sector’s significance is not diminished. The military will spend more than $200 billion on revitalising its hardware, including a new surface and subsurface navy fleet, acquiring fifth-generation fighter jets, and a range of land capabilities. The continued rollout and acquisition of military hardware will present a range of opportunities for Australian businesses.
Minister for Health – Greg Hunt MP
With Mr Hunt staying in the Health portfolio, the Government will be expected to continue its previous efforts in this space. In what can be a controversial and election-deciding policy area, Mr Hunt is seen as a safe pair of hands. Encouraging uptake of private health insurance and other market-driven initiatives to achieve savings on the larger Health spend are likely to be high on the agenda.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs – Ken Wyatt AM MP
Mr Wyatt is the first Aboriginal person to hold the Indigenous Affairs role. While this has tremendous symbolic importance to Australia’s First Peoples, Mr Wyatt will have a range of policies to tackle. One key area commenced by his predecessor is Aboriginal procurement, where a range of stakeholders have become concerned that Indigenous communities are not seeing the economic benefit this policy is supposed to create.
Economic growth and trade high on the agenda
There will continue to be major international pressures on Australia. These will be significant issues regardless of domestic politics, yet the re-elected Morrison Government must now grapple with these challenges for the next three years. Matters such as increasingly protectionist trade policy from the US, balancing the seemingly competing security and trade aspects of our relationship with China, and flat global economic growth combined with deflationary conditions will be high on the agenda.
Because of the broad agenda and renewed mandate, the Coalition has as it commences its third term of government, now is the ideal time for Australian businesses to engage new and ongoing ministers to pursue opportunities and craft public policy outcomes. Feel free to contact us (using the link on the left) for a discussion about the opportunities that may lay ahead for your business as the 46th Federal Parliament convenes.