The federal government role of Minister for Cities and the Built Environment has already been lost just six months after being created by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
A cabinet reshuffle announced on the weekend saw Liberal MP Angus Taylor appointed to the newly created role of Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation. The role is essentially that of a parliamentary secretary, and moves the cities portfolio from the Department of the Environment to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Environment minister Greg Hunt was appointed Acting Minister for Cities in January following the resignation of Jamie Briggs in December last year.
Former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally said the position had been “downgraded” in a tweet published on Sunday 14 February. According to The Australian, former Minister for Cities and the Built Environment Jamie Briggs liked Keneally’s tweet from his official Twitter account. However, at the time of publication the like was no longer appearing.
The fanfare 6 months ago. Now the role downgraded to an Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) February 13, 2016
This morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull denied that the shift represented a downgrade, instead saying that the cities portfolio had “in reality been promoted.”
“Because it has a whole of government impact, it really needs to be in the central agency, the most important agency in the government, which is, of course, the Prime Minister’s own department. So it will be there in [Prime Minister and Cabinet] and I’ve appointed a really outstanding young or new member of Parliament, Angus Taylor, who I think everyone recognised … has got one of the biggest brains in the room.”
Since the 2013 election, Angus Taylor has been the federal member for Hume, a NSW seat that is classified as rural.
Taylor grew up in Nimmitabel, a town in south-west NSW, before studying in Sydney. A large part of his career has been spent in the agriculture sector, and he now lives in Goulburn, a town in the Hume division with a population of just over 22,000.
In June 2013, Taylor attended the anti-wind power protest the Wind Power Fraud Rally outside Parliament House in Canberra, which was led by radio host Alan Jones and called to abolish the renewable energy target and ban new wind farms.
ArchitectureAU put questions to Angus Taylor’s office about the link between cities and digital transformation, particularly in relation to “smart cities,” but did not receive a response in time for publication.
On 10 February, shadow Minister for Cities Anthony Albanese put out a statement urging the Prime Minister to appoint a new Minister for Cities, and to place them in the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development rather than the Department of Environment.