Gary Gray's New Cabinet Role Is A Business Super-Minister

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has appointed former Woodside executive Gary Gray to a hugely influential Cabinet position as Minister for Resources and Energy, Minister for Tourism and Minister for Small Business.

Gray’s promotion makes him responsible for three critically important economic sectors, each facing a swathe of challenges, particularly from the ongoing strength of the Australian dollar.

The reshuffle triggered by last week’s aborted leadership challenge by Kevin Rudd has implications for a wide range of industries, with Trade and Competitiveness Minister Craig Emerson also taking on Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research.

Key Kevin Rudd backer Anthony Albanese was promoted as expected, adding Regional Development and Local Government to his existing portfolio of Infrastructure and Transport.

Gray’s predecessor as Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, resigned from Cabinet after the leadership tensions came to a head in Canberra last week. His departure was lamented by sector peak bodies. The Minerals Council of Australia said Ferguson “brought to his role a deep understanding of the mining industry and a strong commitment to consult with the industry on policy challenges”.

Big boots to fill – but Gray’s experience at Woodside will be of some reassurance to the sector.

Here’s what Gray had to say about Chinese investment in the mining sector in 2011, as reported in The Australian.

“What makes [the big mining companies] strong is their capability to deal with China on a range of fronts. I do think we have to be extremely careful to ensure that Chinese investment works for both sides of that divide.

“We have had some incidents where we have had to think very carefully about what that investment means. I think we have done it very well.”

Mr Gray said Chinese participation in Australian companies still needed to be subject to the “rules and strictures of our own legal entities”.

The other big change announced today is the merging of the Department of Climate Change with the Industry Department to become the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. All of this will fall under Greg Combet.

You can read the PM’s statement here.

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