Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has taken over the Australian Government’s Infrastructure and Transport portfolio after a Federal cabinet reshuffle was announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Joyce will replace outgoing Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, who has held the cabinet position since 2016.

Mr Joyce will now be responsible for the Australian Government’s multi-billion-dollar inland rail project.

The announcement comes just months after Mr Joyce was embroiled in a dual citizenship crisis in August 2017, where he referred himself to the high court, following claims he was a dual citizen.

Mr Joyce, and five other senators, were disqualified from parliament following the decision from the High Court on the grounds they were dual citizens when they nominated.

Mr Joyce was returned to his seat in the Lower House on December 6, 2017 after a bi-election was held in parliament.

“I’m delighted to welcome Barnaby Joyce back as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport – a vital portfolio as the Government rolls out its record $75 billion infrastructure program,” Mr Turbull said.

“I take this opportunity to thank Darren Chester for his significant contributions to the Cabinet as the outgoing Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. I know that we will all continue to call on his wisdom and experience.”

Mr Chester said he was “disappointed” to be excluded from the new cabinet team but was proud of his achievements.

“It has been an enormous honour and a privilege to serve in Cabinet in the best portfolio possible, infrastructure and transport. Over the past two years, I’ve been part of policy and project decisions which will change lives and save lives across our nation.”

He will continue to support the Turnbull Government in the backbench.

“Naturally, I’m disappointed by The Leader of the Nationals’ decision to exclude me from his Cabinet team. Politics can be a tough business for all involved,” Mr Chester said.

“But life goes on and I will continue to support the Turnbull Government. We need to work together as a strong and united team and I will continue to demonstrate the loyalty and professionalism that is required for us to deliver the government Australia deserves.

“To that end, I’m looking forward to continuing to serve the people of Gippsland with passion, enthusiasm and determination for many years to come.

“I will continue to be an outspoken advocate for road safety and will campaign for increased investment in better, safer roads in regional areas.”

Paul Fletcher will also take on an expanded role as Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities as part of the reshuffle.

This portfolio is charged with ensuring the Government’s infrastructure program meets its objectives of reducing congestion and improving the liveability of our cities. Mr Fletcher will also continue the delivery of City Deals with state and local governments around the country.

David Littleproud will become Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.

“He will bring to the role two decades of experience in agribusiness before he joined parliament,” Mr Turnbull said.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) thanked Mr Chester for his “dedicated service” in the portfolio, and said they would support the new minister to ensure important projects get done.   

“The ministerial reshuffle announced by the Prime Minister…mean(s) the freight logistics industry’s priorities will remain well-represented at the highest levels of Government,” ALC Managing Director, Michael Kilgariff said.

“ALC will work closely and cooperatively with the new Minister and his team to build on progress to date, and ensure the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy to be released in 2018 effectively addresses those industry priorities set out in Freight Doesn’t Vote, the ALC submission to the Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities.”

“The additional responsibilities given to Minister Fletcher will be very positive for the freight logistics sector, as we seek to develop cities which are more freight-friendly. His understanding of our industry will be of great assistance in developing a more consistent national approach to issues such as urban planning and corridor protection,” Mr Kilgariff said.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) said the announcement of the Prime Minister’s ministerial reshuffle confirmed its commitment to the rail sector by elevating the infrastructure and transport policy agendas into the Deputy Prime Minister’s portfolio.

“The Deputy Prime Minister has been a staunch advocate for the Inland Rail project from the get-go and we look forward to working with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP and his team to ensure that rail continues to play a significant role in our cities and in our regional communities,” ARA CEO, Danny Broad, said.

Mr Broad thanked the outgoing Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and his team for their strong ongoing support to the ARA and the rail sector.

“The ARA will continue to work closely with the Commonwealth to ensure the National Rail Industry Plan’s objectives are achieved through an implementation strategy involving a partnership between the rail industry and Federal, State and Territory Governments.

“We also congratulate the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP on the expansion of responsibilities given to the Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities. This recognises that urban infrastructure is critical for the sustainable growth and development of our cities, of which rail is a key component.

“We thank the Hon. Darren Chester MP and his team for their close association and support to the rail industry and the National Rail Industry Plan. We thank him for committing financial support to the Inland Rail project in the 2017 Federal Budget, which will have a significant influence on the future of freight and supply chains in Australia.”

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