Nuclear energy enthusiast Keith Pitt has rocketed into cabinet to oversee Australia’s mining industry.
The Bundaberg-based Queensland MP quit the ministry during his last stint as an assistant minister over Australia’s international climate change targets.
Now he’s been catapulted from the backbench to a seat at the cabinet table, taking on resources, the deeply divisive water portfolio and responsibility for northern Australia.
Last year, he sparked a parliamentary inquiry into nuclear energy that produced a report calling for the partial lifting of the moratorium on nuclear energy to allow for new technologies.
Despite the findings of the inquiry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists Australia’s nuclear ban is not being lifted.
Before entering politics, Mr Pitt was a tradesman, engineer, small business owner and farmer.
“I want to bring that practical, common sense experience to the portfolio,” he said.
“The resources sector in Australia is a dynamic industry with great opportunity to further develop and drive our nation forward and I look forward to the challenges this presents.”
Water is a more challenging task, with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and drought among the most contested policy areas in Australia.
Labor’s water spokeswoman Terri Butler accused Mr Pitt of denying climate change.
“Australians want certainty in water management,” she said.
“Instead, we get Scott Morrison’s chaotic anti-science, ministerial musical chairs, colour-coded especially for the National Party.”
Mr Pitt was one of four lower house MPs to vote against same-sex marriage.
He’s also been highly critical of the federal government’s international carbon emissions reduction targets under the Paris agreement.
Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester joins Mr Pitt in cabinet, returning after a three-year absence from the senior ministry.
It’s the first time in 27 years the portfolio has been in cabinet.
NSW MP Mark Coulton – a key ally of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack – will be minister for regional health, regional communications and local government.
Andrew Gee, also a McCormack backer in Tuesday’s spill, has been promoted to the outer ministry with responsibilities for regional education and decentralisation.
He also takes over as assistant trade minister.
Another McCormack ally, Queensland MP Michelle Landry will continue as assistant minister for children and family services, while also assisting Mr Pitt as minister for northern Australia.
NSW MP Kevin Hogan has been promoted from the backbench to be Mr McCormack’s assistant minister.