Four departments and five secretaries cut while one returns, as PM reshapes the public service


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled a massive Australian Public Service shake-up, which will see five secretaries out of their jobs, after a morning of confusion as rumours and leaks made their way into multiple major media outlets hours before the official statement.

After allowing various elements of the biggest story about the APS for decades to trickle out and flow through the filters of various news outlets this morning, Morrison released the following media statement shortly before 11.30am, confirming five secretaries will be gone when the changes take effect on February 1, 2020:

  • Department of Communications and the Arts secretary Mike Mrdak
  • Department of Human Services secretary Renée Leon
  • Department of Agriculture secretary Daryl Quinlivan
  • Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business secretary Kerri Hartland
  • Department of Industry, Innovation and Science secretary Heather Smith

One rumour that turned out to be wrong was the idea that Health secretary Glenys Beauchamp was in the firing line. She is not.

Another rumour was on the money: former APS secretary Andrew Metcalfe will return to the fold after working for Ernst and Young since 2013. He will head up the Department of Agriculture, which will also cover policy related to Water and the Environment.

Here’s the full statement from Morrison:

Today, I am announcing changes to the structure of the Australian Public Service (APS) as part of our reform agenda to put Australians at the centre of Government.

This morning, the Governor-General approved my recommendation to reduce the number of Government departments from 18 to 14, to ensure the services that Australians rely on are delivered more efficiently and effectively.

Australians should be able to access simple and reliable services, designed around their needs.  Having fewer departments will allow us to bust bureaucratic congestion, improve decision-making and ultimately deliver better services for the Australian people.

The new structure will drive greater collaboration on important policy challenges. For example, better integrating the Government’s education and skills agenda and ensuring Australians living in regional areas can access the infrastructure and services they need.

The following changes will take effect on 1 February 2020:

  • The creation of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, which will consolidate:

o   the current Department of Education; and

o   the current Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.

  • The creation of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, which will consolidate:

o   the current Department of Agriculture; and

o   environment functions from the current Department of the Environment and Energy.

  • The creation of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, which will consolidate:

o   the current Department of Industry, Innovation and Science;

o   energy functions from the current Department of the Environment and Energy; and

o   small business functions from the current Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.

  • The creation of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, which will consolidate:

o   the current Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development; and

o   the current Department of Communications and the Arts.

  • The Department known as Services Australia (formerly known as the Department of Human Services) will be established as a new Executive Agency, within the Social Services Department.

Ten departments remain unchanged.

I am also announcing today that the remit of the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency will be expanded to include drought.  The Hon Shane Stone AC QC will lead the new National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency, providing national leadership and a whole-of-government response to support our farmers and regional communities as they respond to, and recover from, the drought and the north Queensland flood from earlier this year.

The Agency will sit within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and report to the Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, the Hon David Littleproud MP.

As a consequence of these machinery changes, there will be movement and change amongst the Secretaries of departments.  The following Secretaries will not continue to hold office in the new structure when it takes effect on 1 February 2020:

  • Ms Kerri Hartland;
  • Ms Renée Leon PSM;
  • Mr Mike Mrdak AO;
  • Mr Daryl Quinlivan; and
  • Dr Heather Smith PSM.

Each of these senior officials has served their country with dedication, commitment and a deep sense of public service over many years, and their advice, achievements and leadership have been valued by governments past and present.

On behalf of the Government and all Australians, I thank Ms Hartland, Ms Leon, Mr Mrdak, Mr Quinlivan and Dr Smith for everything they have done to advance Australia’s interests, and for their service, and I wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

Mr David Fredericks, currently the Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Energy, will move to be Secretary of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO will take up the position of Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Mr Metcalfe was Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship from 2005 to 2012 and Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in 2013. Since then he has been a partner at EY (Ernst and Young). He will bring considerable public policy leadership experience to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and to the Secretaries Board.

The new structure will be implemented before Parliament returns next year. A full list of the new departments and Secretaries is provided below.

I have a deep respect for public servants and their work in delivering the Government’s agenda. I look forward to continuing to work with the public service to achieve the best outcomes for the Australian people.

The new structure of departments and Secretaries, on 1 February 2020, will be:

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO
Attorney-General’s Department Mr Chris Moraitis PSM
Department of Defence Mr Greg Moriarty
Department of Education, Skills and Employment Dr Michelle Bruniges AM
Department of Finance Ms Rosemary Huxtable PSM
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ms Frances Adamson
Department of Health Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM
Department of Home Affairs Mr Michael Pezzullo
Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Mr David Fredericks
Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications Mr Simon Atkinson
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Mr Philip Gaetjens
Department of Social Services Ms Kathryn Campbell AO CSC
Department of the Treasury Dr Steven Kennedy PSM
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Ms Liz Cosson AM CSC

About the author
Premium

The essential resource for effective public sector leaders

Special offer on now: Subscribe for a year to Mandarin Premium, get two outstanding books free.

Get Premium Today