Today recently elected Prime Minister announced his cabinet positions, handing portfolios to ministers responsible for executing on his Government’s election promises.
Since September 2015 Mitch Fifield has been Minister for Communications, a portfolio that is responsible for much of the technology that we all use daily. By far the biggest part of the role is the National Broadband Network.
Announced today and effective this week, Fifield is out and Australia’s new Minister for Communications is Paul Fletcher.
You can follow Paul Fletcher on Twitter at @PaulFletcherMP who at the time of writing has 10.5K followers, so plenty of work to be done there. Over on Facebook Fletcher has 16,273 likes and if that’s your preferred social platform, follow him there.
Fletcher entered Parliament 10 years ago, back in December of 2009 as the Member for Bradfield (North Sydney, NSW) and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications in September 2013. Since then he’s had a number of roles including Minister for Major Projects, Territories, and Local Government, Minister for Urban Infrastructure, Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities and Minister for Families and Social Services.
Sadly direct experience in a cabinet role is often not a prerequisite for portfolio distribution. Thankfully Fletcher does have some runs on the board, in that area having worked as a senior executive at Optus for 8 years, and more recently the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications from 2013 to 2015.
Despite this, Fletcher will still have an aggressive learning curve ahead of him, particularly when it comes to the highly contentious NBN project.
He joins the portfolio at an interesting time, the project is due for completion next year. That means Fletcher may have the enviable position of holding the batten when the project reaches the finish line.
The communications sector serves a vital human need – for people to communicate with each other – and makes a critical economic and social contribution to our nation. As Minister I will aim to take forward policy settings which maximise this contribution.Paul Fletcher, Minister for Communications, Cybersafety and the Arts
‘With many parts of the communications sector facing profound and continuing change, sound policy settings will be more important than ever.
‘A key priority will be completing the rollout of the NBN. In 2013 we inherited a shambles from Labor with barely 50,000 premises connected to the fixed network.
‘Today 9.28 million premises around Australia are able to connect to the NBN and almost 5.3 million premises are connected.
‘Another priority will be to continue the Morrison Government’s work to make the internet a safer place for the millions of Australians who use it every day.
The big problem with calling a close to the construction phase of the project is that many Australians won’t have speeds that reflect current internet needs. Since the project began, our internet usage largely thanks to an explosion of video streaming has meant the demand on internet speeds has also grown exponentially.
Back in 2007, homes in Australia had 1 or 2 TVs that consumed mostly Standard Definition over-the-air broadcasts. Since then we’ve moved from 720 to 1080, through to 4K and now in 2019, 8K TVs are on sale in Australia. Now with 3-4 large displays in the home and most of the content coming over the internet, the demand for high speed internet is never greater. Sadly depending on your address, you’ll have a dramatically different connection experience, a result of the 2013 switch by the Coalition to a multi-technology mix.
This means that when the project is done, it really is the start of the next project, NBN 2.0 if you like, instead of sitting back and letting a rare profit-generating, highly demanded Government-owned service become a key profit center.
You can read Paul Fletcher’s Media Release about his new portfolio here.