New secretaries for Infrastructure and Environment departments

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday November 8, 2019

Two new secretaries have been appointed for the standard five-year terms in Australian Public Service, starting from Monday, November 11.

David Fredericks.

David Fredericks has been appointed to lead the Department of the Environment and Energy. He is currently a deputy secretary at the Department of Finance, in charge of the budget and financial reporting, and worked in the Attorney-General’s Department at the same level from 2011 to 2015. He was a ministerial adviser from 2008 to 2010, and prior to that served in the Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Treasury and Finance.

He was once a deputy chief of staff to Steve Bracks, the former Labor premier of Victoria, and was chief of staff to the former Minister for Climate Change and Water, Penny Wong, and former Labor leader Kim Beazley.

Fredericks also appeared in this well-known piece of cinema.

Meanwhile, Simon Atkinson has been appointed to lead the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development. He currently works as a deputy secretary in the Treasury and was Cabinet Secretary in 2017 and 2018, after serving as chief of staff to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann for several years.

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Atkinson and the current head of the Prime Minister’s department, Philip Gaetjens, were both appointed to senior Treasury roles last year, drawing criticism from the opposition as examples of politicising the public service. Labor MP Julian Hill told The Mandarin they were “blatantly political” appointments in his view.

There was no such opprobrium from the shadow minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development, Catherine King. “I enjoyed a constructive relationship with Mr Atkinson when I was a minister within this portfolio in the previous Labor government, and look forward to working with him as he takes on this challenging role,” she said in a statement on Sunday.

Like Gaetjens, Atkinson has considerable public service experience. He has also held senior roles in various departments including Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury, Defence and Finance. Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted he led the establishment of Infrastructure Australia.

He joined the APS as a graduate, after working for the Queensland Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. He played a senior role in the development of the 2009 Defence White Paper, had a hand in 24 Commonwealth economic updates, and led the Budget and Fiscal element of the Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands in 2003-04.

Atkinson has degrees in science and law as well as a graduate diploma in legal practice. He is a barrister and solicitor of the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of NSW, as well as a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

The new Environment secretary replaces Finn Pratt, who announced his retirement last month after a long run in the APS including over 10 years as a department head.

The last permanent Infrastructure secretary, Dr Steven Kennedy, moved to Treasury in September and Pip Spence was quietly appointed to acting secretary on September 2.

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