In his second pre-election reshuffle, Prime Minister John Howard has promoted Assistant Treasurer and Revenue Minister Helen Coonan to the inner Cabinet.
Coonan replaces IT Minister Daryl Williams, who retires at the next election, and will be Australia's third IT and communications minister in 12 months.
A source at Coonan's office told Computerworld that the announcement had come as a complete surprise and was unsure which staff would move to the ICT portfolio.
Similarly, Daryl Williams' new spokeperson – who has been in the job for less than a week, was unable to say what staff would continue with Coonan when she arrived.
The announcement comes less than a day after the government laid the groundwork for a tranche of information technology and communications election policies for its fourth term in the form of a 30-page strategy tome.
Entitled the Strategic Framework for the Information Economy 2004-6: Opportunities and challenges for the Information Age, the document sets out four key national ICT priorities and 16 "related strategies" with the stated objective of ensuring "Australia maintains its position as one of the leading information economies".
Helen Coonan was elected as a New South Wales Liberal Senator in 1996 after a career practicing as a solicitor, barrister and attorney. In 2003, Senator Coonan was voted the most influential person in financial services, and is the first woman to hold a treasury portfolio in the history of Federation.
In 2001 Coonan was promoted to the Ministry for Revenue with a portfolio responsibility for taxation. This included designing new taxation laws, business tax reform, administrative matters relating to the ATO and compliance, superannuation administration and regulation of financial institutions.
Senator Coonan is the inaugural Patron of the Mental Health Council of Australia and lives in Sydney with her family.
(With Michael Crawford.)