Brendan O’Connor announced as minister for small business, Labor puts portfolio in Cabinet

Brendan O’Connor has been announced as the new federal Minister for Small Business, a role that will now be part of the Cabinet, in a dramatic reshuffle that saw Prime Minister Julia Gillard appoint former New South Wales premier Bob Carr as Foreign Minister.

In a statement, Julia Gillard said “small businesses are central to Australia’s economy and deserve Cabinet-level representation”.

O’Connor was formerly Minister for Human Services, but has now taken over the small business and housing and homelessness portfolio.

COSBOA executive director Peter Strong says he’s looking forward to looking to meeting O’Connor. 

“Having a minister in Cabinet is exactly what we wanted, and I’ll be serving him tea,” he told SmartCompany.

Business has been pushing for the small business porfolio to be included in cabinet for years.

O’Connor is the member for Gorton, in the outer western suburbs of Melbourne, having been first elected in 2011 as the Member of Burke. At the 2004 election he was elected to the newly created electorate of Gorton.

Prior to entering Parliament, O’Connor was a union official for 15 years, and served as the assistant national secretary of the Australian Services Union. He began in the Municipal Employees Union of Victoria.

In 2005, he was elected as chair of the Labor Industrial Relations Taskforce. After Kevin Rudd was made Labor leader in 2006, O’Connor was appointed as shadow secretary for industrial relations.

Meanwhile, Gillard announced former New South Wales premier Bob Carr will take on the role of foreign minister, after Kevin Rudd stood down from that portfolio last week after his failed leadership challenge.

There had been some uncertainty this week as to whether Carr was offered the job – Gillard said he was not, but Carr said there had been some contact between them.

David Bradbury has now been made assistant treasurer, along with a new role, minister assisting for deregulation. 

Other changes include giving attorney-general Nicola Roxon the additional portfolio of Emergency Management, while Tony Burke will take on an additional role of vice-president of the executive council.

Jan McLucas will become parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, in addition to her existing roles, while Richard Marles will have some more responsibilities as parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs.

Bernie Ripoll will serve as parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer, while Sharon Bird becomes parliametnary secretary for higher education and skills. Jacinta Collins will become manager of government business in the senate, a role formerly filled by Mark Arbib. 

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