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What the new Turnbull Ministry means for agriculture

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced his new Ministry, with most Ministers continuing in their pre-election roles and a few surprises sure to make for interesting times ahead in the agriculture sector.

Despite speculation that the Deputy Prime Minister may move on from the agriculture portfolio, Barnaby Joyce remains Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and a key decision maker in the farm sector. His Assistant Ministers, Anne Ruston and Luke Hartsuyker, are likely to lead the backpacker tax review over coming months. Also involved but now in the trade and tourism ministry will be Keith Pitt. Treasurer Scott Morrison retains ultimate responsibility for the Budget, with Kelly O'Dwyer taking on the new role of Minister for Revenue and Financial Services.
 
Steve Ciobo holds on to the trade portfolio and Julie Bishop continues on as Foreign Affairs Minister. Together with Minister Bishop, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells will have an interest in the Seasonal Worker Program, as will Michaelia Cash who retains the employment portfolio. She now has the difficult task of navigating the "double dissolution trigger" ABCC and Registered Organisations Bills through a new, high profile Senate. Peter Dutton is still Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, now supported by former Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, Alex Hawke, who may become important for the farm sector on visa and migration policy. Karen Andrews moves up to the role of Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, overseeing Skills Impact and reform of the VET sector.
 
Fiona Nash adds to her Regional Development  and Regional Communications interests with local government and territories and will have a key role in delivering on better connectivity in the bush together with Mitch Fifield who remains Communications Minister. Angus Taylor continues as Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation and Darren Chester will lead coastal shipping reform as Infrastructure and Transport Minister. Dr David Gillespie becomes Assistant Minister for Rural Health and Nigel Scullion keeps the indigenous affairs portfolio.
 
In the environment portfolio, Josh Frydenberg takes over from Greg Hunt and also picks up responsibility for energy policy.  This is a sure sign that renewables and energy sector reform will be on the agenda as the Turnbull Government maps out the path to achieving the Paris Climate Targets.  How this plays out in terms of demand for coal and gas will be important in striking the balance between mining, on shore gas and agricultural interests. Greg Hunt moves to Industry Innovation and Science, with oversight of the Industry Skills Fund and the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre.
 
Michael McCormack replaces Kelly O'Dwyer as Minister for Small Business - a new role for the Nationals and an important one when you consider that over 60 per cent of farm businesses in Australia are small businesses. In the North, Matt Canavan is Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. He will have a significant role in delivering on the Northern Australia White Paper commitments, as well as many related commitments such as new dams announced in the Agriculture White Paper in 2015. George Brandis loses the Arts portfolio but remains Attorney-General and the key decision maker in the live export case.  
 
Overall it's mostly back to business for the Government, with a few unknowns in the important areas of migration and environment policy. Only time will tell whether it will deliver for Australian agriculture with policy settings that allow it to reach its full potential - including securing our agricultural workforce, ending the data drought and building the inland rail - for our collective future prosperity and food security.

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    Look forward to Fiona Nash's impact on Regional Development and Regional Communications, especially around delivering on better connectivity in the bush and the backup education to match! #excitingtimes

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