Birmo given $19b international portfolio in post-election reshuffle
Jul 19, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
Simon Birmingham has emerged as one of the big winners in the federal Government’s post-election cabinet reshuffle.
The Minister for Education and Training has not only retained his high-profile portfolio, but picked up responsibility for the $19 billion international education sector.
It follows last year’s transfer of early years education out of social services and back under the education umbrella, a move welcomed by the sector.
International education was previously grouped with tourism under the guidance of Tasmanian senator Richard Colbeck, whose seat is now doubt.
Senator Colbeck’s other responsibilities have gone to Queensland Nationals MP Keith Pitt, who has been appointed assistant minister for trade, investment and tourism.
International education is a burgeoning industry and its importance is recognised by its assignment to a senior member of cabinet.
Phil Honeywood of the International Education Association of Australia welcomed the move, telling The Australian: “Our industry will now have a champion minister at the cabinet table who has just recommitted to ensuring the national strategy is rolled out as soon as possible.”
He paid tribute to Senator Colbeck for putting in the “hard yards” to develop the sector’s first national strategy.
The education minister now takes full responsibility for implementation of the resulting International Education Strategy 2020.
Former environment minister Greg Hunt has been appointed Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science as Christopher Pyne moves to a newly-created defence industry portfolio.
Senator Birmingham said he was “honoured” by his reappointment as federal education minister.
“The Coalition took to the election strong, clear policies in early education and child care, schools and higher education, which I look forward to delivering,” he said.
Significant portfolio challenges remain over the Coalition’s planned childcare reforms - delayed until 2018 following their rejection by the Senate - and controversial proposals for a 20 per cent cut in direct university funding.
School funding also remains a point of contention for the Government, with pressure from the ‘I Give a Gonski’ campaign for improved needs-based resourcing unlikely to abate post-election.
Universities Australia, the tertiary sector’s peak representative body, welcomed Senator Birmingham’s reappointment, with chief executive Belinda Robinson saying it brought “welcome continuity to this crucial portfolio”.
“We thank him for his consultative approach to discussions with the sector in the last term of Parliament,” she said.
“We look forward to continuing that constructive working relationship with him through the options paper process that he announced on Budget night.”