PM&C chief Phil Gaetjens is on the hunt for a non-ongoing deputy secretary amid restructure


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The role of deputy secretary for social policy at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is being offered on a non-ongoing basis, six months after the sudden departure of Lin Hatfield-Dodds, while a few other changes have been made to the central agency’s structure.

Interviews will be held on October 4 and the successful candidate will be offered the job initially for no more than 18 months [or at least that was the plan at the time of writing on Monday, September 16. The department then let us know it had changed the APS Jobs notice, so it now says it could be either an ongoing or a non-ongoing position.]

Several other changes to the PM&C leadership structure have followed the completion of the APS Review and the appointment of secretary Phil Gaetjens, who took over the top job two weeks ago.

Stephanie Foster remains deputy secretary, governance, and Caroline Millar is still leading the national security division. They have been joined at the top table by Tess Bishop, a newly appointed deputy secretary in charge of the new “Priorities and Delivery Unit” who previously led the strategy and engagement division of the Queensland Department of the Premier and Cabinet, starting in early 2017.

Bishop previously ran the office of Queensland Health’s director-general. She has held senior roles in central and line agencies both in Victoria and the sunshine state, and has significant experience with KPMG Europe. The new team she leads is central to the Prime Minister’s ambitions to improve federal service delivery, inspired by the New South Wales government, which has had a Premier’s Delivery Unit in its central agency for several years.

With most of the work on the APS Review complete, there is no longer a PM&C deputy secretary leading the secretariat and David Williamson, who held that role earlier this year, has moved to the Department of Industry, Innnovation and Science as deputy secretary for science.

The PM&C executive team slimmed down following this year’s federal budget, which spun off its Indigenous Affairs group. The Indigenous Affairs associate secretary Ray Griggs and deputy secretary Ian Anderson moved across to the new National Indigenous Australians Agency.

The current head of social policy, Alison Larkins, was appointed in April on a short-term contract. A year earlier she stepped down from her last public service role as chief operating officer at the Department of Health, which was also at deputy secretary level.

Larkins was also acting in the PM&C job in mid-2016 when the highly respected Hatfield-Dodds took over. The appointment of the former UnitingCare Australia national director was reportedly controversial in conservative circles because she once stood as a Greens candidate for the Senate.

Alison Larkins

In April 2018 Larkins became a principal at the management consulting firm Nous Group, a familiar career move for senior public servants who become eligible to access defined-benefit superannuation, but her name no longer appears on the company website. She is also a National Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia and sits on the council of its ACT division.

“We may also use this process to fill other SES Band 3 positions in PM&C,” says the department’s advertisement. “A merit pool may be developed for similar vacancies at the SES Band 3 level which may be used APS wide.”

The deputy secretary for social policy is one of three in PM&C’s domestic policy group working alongside David Gruen, who is in charge of the economic policy division, and Simon Duggan, the deputy secretary for industry and jobs.

The listing on APS Jobs explains more about the social policy division:

“The role has primary carriage for leadership and management of the Social Policy Division, the Office for Women, the National Office of Child Safety and the Social Impact Investing Taskforce.

Social Policy Division works with the social policy line agencies (Health; Social Services; Human Services; Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business; Education; Veterans Affairs; the National Indigenous Australians Agency, and their portfolio agencies) and other stakeholders to ensure high quality policy advice and implementation oversight is provided to the PM and Cabinet on key social policy priorities. The division also works closely with Treasury and Finance in providing whole of government advice on Budget processes, and to facilitate the consideration of social policy matters through Cabinet processes.

“The Office for Women works with line agencies across Government to provide support to the Minister for Women in advancing gender equality and improving the lives of Australian women. The National Office for Child Safety (the National Office) provides national leadership, working across governments and sectors, to deliver national policies and strategies to enhance children’s safety and reduce future harm to children. The Social Impact Investing Taskforce Expert Panel is supported by the Department in developing a strategy to guide the Commonwealth’s role in the Social Impact Investing market.

“The Deputy Social Policy works closely with their colleagues in Domestic Policy Group on cross-cutting issues and group leadership.”

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