Gaffe-prone Robert handed key cabinet position
Liberal National MP Stuart Robert — a key number cruncher who secured Scott Morrison’s leadership — has been elevated into cabinet and will oversee the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and be tasked with making the public service more efficient.
The Queenslander, who resigned from Malcolm Turnbull’s frontbench after breaching the ministerial code, has emerged as a major winner in the Prime Minister’s reshuffle, which will see the NDIS carved out of the social services portfolio.
Mr Morrison said Mr Robert would also be government services minister and oversee a newly created federal agency to drive efficiencies in the public sector.
“A key focus for all of my ministers and their departments will be lifting performance on government service delivery. This will include congestion busting on regulatory and bureaucratic roadblocks, making better use of technology and better integrating service delivery across portfolios,” Mr Morrison said.
“Stuart Robert joins the cabinet as minister for the National Disability and Insurance Scheme and minister for government services.
“A new Services Australia agency will be established, along the lines of Services NSW, to drive greater efficiencies and integration of government service delivery and making best use of technology and digital applications.”
Mr Morrison said Mr Robert was the right man to improve the $22 billion NDIS scheme, which has been beset with delays and implementation problems. “Top of the list for improving services will be ensuring we deliver on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, working to our goal of the NDIS supporting 500,000 Australians by 2024-25,” he said.
“The NDIS is a major social reform and there is much work to do to improve the delivery of these services on the ground.”
In early 2016, Mr Robert resigned as Mr Turnbull’s minister for veterans’ affairs and human services over his links to Australian mining company Nimrod Resources, which benefited from a 2014 deal signed in his presence in Beijing with Chinese state-controlled corporation China Metals.
Mr Robert maintained he was in Beijing in a “private capacity” and not on official government business.
He was a key backer of Mr Morrison in last year’s leadership spill, which saw him come through the middle to clinch the nation’s top job from Mr Turnbull after he was challenged by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
Mr Morrison appointed Mr Robert to the outer ministry position of assistant treasurer in August last year but the controversies did not end for the Fadden MP.
In October, he paid back $38,000 after it emerged he had claimed more than $2000 a month of taxpayer funds for internet use at his near-Gold Coast home.
In January, Mr Robert claimed the government had promised to create 1.25 million full-time jobs over the next five years.
The claim was incorrect as Mr Morrison had promised to create 1.25 million full-time and part-time jobs over the next five years.
Labor’s former human services spokeswoman Linda Burney questioned whether Mr Robert’s appointment was a “stunt”.
“This man can’t even manage his Wi-Fi,” Ms Burney tweeted.
“People who rely on the NDIS deserve a minister who genuinely believes in the scheme … Not six ministers in six years.”