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Tuesday, 08 December 2009 06:29

Tony Smith takes shadow communications portfolio

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Former Howard Government parliamentary secretary Tony Smith has been promoted to the frontbench as shadow communications minister in Opposition leader Tony Abbott's reshuffled shadow cabinet.

Mr Smith has been charged with "holding the Government to account" for what the new Opposition leader calls "the most outrageous example of waste" that is the National Broadband Network.

Mr Abbott said he believed the Government was vulnerable in economic management and on spending waste, and that the $43 billion NBN price tag was the highest profile public example of wasteful spending.

Mr Abbott said it remained highly unlikely that the NBN would be built in the timeframe Government had outlined and said the network would be a focal point of attacks on spending waste.

That Government chose to proceed with the NBN before it had even completed a cost-benefit analysis highlighted its weak economic credentials.

"Tony Smith will serve as the new Shadow Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy," Mr Abbott told a press conference in Canberra.

"I believe that Tony's considerable financial skills will increase scrutiny on the Government’s $43 billion broadband network which is being foisted on Australian taxpayers without even a business plan," he said.

Former opposition communications spokesman Nick Minchin moves to the resources and energy portfolio, but retains his position as Opposition Leader in the Senate.

Senator Minchin will also represent Tony Smith in the Senate chamber – putting him head-to-head with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy during question time at least until the next election.

As expected, the Nationals' Barnaby Joyce has been appointed shadow Finance minister, and will represent shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey in the Senate.

Senator Joyce's appointment to the shadow frontbench effectively captures his vote on NBN and telecommunications reform legislation that will be put to the Senate in February.

Senator Joyce would almost certainly have crossed the floor to vote in favour of the legislation with at least one other Nationals senator, but has ruled out crossing the floor on any issue while he is on the coalition front bench.

Mr Smith was first elected to Parliament at the 2001 election for the Victorian seat of Casey and comes from the conservative end of the Liberal Party.

Last week, Smith sided with the climate sceptics in the leadership revolt against Malcolm Turnbull, resigning as shadow assistant treasurer ahead of the leadership spill that installed Tony Abbott.

Smith has previously spent time as an adviser to former treasurer Peter Costello, and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister in early 2007 for the last months of the Howard Government.


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