Jane Halton on central reform from her new Finance fiefdom

FIRST INTERVIEW: The Finance secretary is central to a new era of reform, against a background of accelerating IT and social change that demands collaboration and new ideas. She sat down with The Mandarin.

Jane Halton

Jane Halton

It’s easy to stand outside the Australian public service and criticise it as cumbersome and a step behind the most dynamic parts of the private sector. All you have to do is focus on what it is not. But for those who dedicate their lives to it, like newly minted Department of Finance secretary Jane Halton, there’s a certain pride in what the incredible bureaucratic machine actually is, and what it can be.

After just over 12 years running the massive Department of Health (formerly Health and Ageing), Halton is now at the centre of the APS machine, heading up the lead agency in service-wide reform that is souping it up for higher performance while keeping the fiscal engines fueled and purring away. For those coming up in the ranks behind her, she believes now is an exciting time to be part of a world-leading government apparatus, with lots of opportunities to shine.

“I think we have a fantastic quality of public servant in Australia and I do think our history of innovation and our history of staying at the cutting edge is an important legacy that we need to honour, so the opportunity to look at how we do our business and to improve it is a terrific opportunity and I think everyone should embrace that,” Halton told The Mandarin last week, capping off a wide-ranging conversation at her new office at the John Gorton building in Canberra.

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