Labor has farewelled Martin Parkinson for his “remarkable” service and dedicated contribution to gender equality.
The head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet was appointed to the role in 2016, and retires today.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese and Shadow Minister for the Public Service Katy Gallagher thanked Parkinson in a statement on Friday.
“Today, Labor would like to thank Dr Martin Parkinson AC PSM for the significant contribution he has made over nearly four decades of public service to our nation and congratulate him on a successful and distinguished career,” they said.
“Dr Parkinson’s contribution to public policy and the administration of government, sometimes in testing political climates, has been remarkable.
“Gender equality in the Australian Public Service has been a particular area of passion for Dr Parkinson and his leadership in this space deserves special recognition. His hard work and advocacy for gender equality, particularly at senior levels, has reaped results with the Secretary’s Board reaching a 50/50 gender split during his term.
“Dr Parkinson’s ability to remain impartial and to serve governments of both political colours across several senior roles is admirable and testament to his character.
“Labor wishes Dr Parkinson well in his retirement and thanks him for his service.”
In a 2017 address to the inaugural APS Gender Equality and Diversity Awards, Parkinson expressed the importance of gender equality in the public service — a sentiment that he has continuously noted over his long career.
“What I’ve learned in my own journey is that there is no checklist or silver bullet that will create a more diverse and inclusive organisation. The reasons for disparity are complex, cultural, and interconnected — so our solutions must be too,” he said.
“It’s inconceivable that the lack of diverse representation in the APS is due to difference in ability. The reality instead is we need to change our systems, structures and processes to make sure that the leaders of tomorrow come from all backgrounds.
“It starts with recruitment, but that is only the start. The composition of the cohort coming through the door doesn’t automatically work its way through to the senior ranks with equal progression. That’s because diversity and inclusion are not the same thing. You have to be inclusive in order to make the most of diversity.”
A decade ago, Parkinson was advocating for women in Treasury through the Progressing Women Initiative, and appointed the Treasury’s first female Deputy Secretary.
“The Treasury taught me just how hard it is to change an institution, even from the top,” he said in his final speech last week, at the National Gallery of Australia.
“I look forward to the day when we see our first female heads of Treasury, PM&C and of our national security and intelligence agencies.”
Under Parkinson, PM&C embarked on its Gender Equality Strategy, which aimed to challenge unconscious biases and have maintained a gender balance of a minimum of 40% each of men and women in the department by 2019, with a 50-50 balance in Executive Board positions and the SES.