Senator the Hon Helen Coonan
Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Following a long career in law, that spanned practise as a partner in a large commercial law firm, practise as a commercial barrister in Australia and as an Attorney in New York, Helen Coonan was elected as a Liberal Senator for New South Wales in 1996 and was re-elected in 2001 for a second term.
In July 2004 Senator Coonan was appointed to Cabinet as the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and in 2006 she was appointed Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Minister is one of two women in the Federal Cabinet and the first woman to be appointed to the Coalition's leadership team.
The Minister has portfolio oversight of the Australian broadcasting and telecommunications industries as well as the ICT sector and Australia Post. Senator Coonan is the Senior Minister responsible for the Arts.
The Minister recently achieved passage of legislation to allow the full privatisation of Telstra. This includes an historic $3.1 billion package of funding – Connect Australia – to ensure Australians enjoy first class telecommunications services both now and into the future, the largest investment in telecommunications in Australia's history.
The Minister is also responsible for the carriage of Government policy to reform media ownership laws in Australia. The media reform package includes a comprehensive plan to drive Australia 's switch to digital as well as measures to encourage new digital services for consumers.
In the area of IT, the Minister has established a tele-working taskforce to help enable more people to work from home, a Women in IT summit to encourage more women into the IT workforce and a high-level Board of IT to broaden the base of advice to Government on IT issues. The Minister is also patron of the Australian Computer Society.
Prior to her appointment to Cabinet, Senator Coonan was Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer. She served on both the Cabinet Expenditure Review Committee and Ad Hoc Revenue Committee following her appointment to the Ministry in November 2001.
Senator Coonan was the first woman to hold a Treasury portfolio in the history of Federation.
Under Senator Coonan's leadership, sweeping changes in the areas of superannuation and insurance reform were implemented and she was the key driver of the Government's business tax reforms, appointing the first Inspector General of Taxation to act as an advocate for taxpayers.
She was the architect of a national program of law reforms aimed at addressing the cost and availability of liability classes of insurance including a comprehensive framework to stabilise the medical indemnity industry in Australia.
Senator Coonan is the Parliamentary Patron of the Mental Health Council of Australia and supports the Council's work by promoting greater awareness and commitment to mental health issues.
Senator Coonan is a passionate supporter of the performing and visual arts and often attends cultural events. Senator Coonan lives in Sydney with her family.