Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet reshuffle has led to the recreation of a cities minister, with urban infrastructure minister Paul Fletcher being given an expanded portfolio to become minister for urban infrastructure and cities.
Previously Angus Taylor was assistant minister to the Prime Minister with special responsibility for cities and digital transformation. Mr Taylor’s position was seen as demotion for cities – being effectively a parliamentary secretary – following Mr Turnbull abolishing the first minister for cities and the built environment portfolio in 2016, mere months after it was created.
“Paul Fletcher will take on an expanded role as minister for urban infrastructure and cities, charged with ensuring the government’s infrastructure program meets its objectives of reducing congestion and improving the liveability of our cities,” Mr Turnbull said.
“He will also continue the delivery of City Deals with state and local governments around the country.”
The news was welcomed by the Property Council of Australia, which said Australia’s city agenda had become a “ministry in its own right”.
“The decision to make cities part of minister Fletcher’s responsibilities lays a platform for a vital economic agenda,” PCA chief executive Ken Morrison said.
“Cities account for two-thirds of all employment and 80 per cent of Australia’s economic growth.”
Mr Morrison did note, however, that the portfolio sat outside cabinet, while the senior infrastructure and regional infrastructure ministries sat within it.
“With cities shaping so much of Australia’s economic trajectory, it is vital that these arrangements don’t result in a move away from the focus on urban infrastructure investment signalled in the May budget,” he said.
Mr Fletcher became minister for urban infrastructure in 2016, and is member for Bradfield in Sydney’s north shore.
The country’s first cities minister, Jamie Briggs, was forced to resign following allegations of inappropriate behaviour by a female staffer. Environment minister Greg Hunt took over the role before it was abolished in a 2016 cabinet reshuffle.