The senior bureaucrat accused of breaching parliamentary privilege last year will step down from his role immediately, but may return to the Western Australian Public Service in the future to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
WA Premier Mark McGowan on Monday announced that the director general of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Darren Foster, would be leaving his role immediately.
Deputy director general Emily Roper will act in the role this week, and Rebecca Brown, current director general of the Department Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, will be appointed as acting director general of DPC from Monday, March 30.
McGowan thanked Foster for his “enormous contribution” over the last three years and his service to WA.
He said Foster was taking personal leave and would return to the public sector in the future, possibly in a role related to the coronavirus.
“I have asked Mr Foster to consider taking on an important role in economic recovery, linked to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“Western Australia is facing unprecedented challenges and the immediate challenge is to minimise the spread of the virus and do what we can to support our economy.
“We also need to look beyond the crisis we are in now and prepare for the significant recovery that will be needed to get our state and our economy back into gear.
“These administrative changes will not negatively impact the work the state government is currently doing or the work we do in the future.”
Last year Foster was at the centre of a standoff with the state’s parliamentary Procedure and Privileges Committee, which accused him of breaching parliamentary privilege by handing documents to the Corruption and Crime Commission as part of an investigation, rather than giving it to them first.
In August, the committee signalled the clash would continue at the Supreme Court.
McGowan backed his head staffer throughout the fight, as did the State Solicitor’s Office. Foster also had the support of commissioner John McKechnie, who said the bureaucrat had acted “very professionally”.
At the time, McGowan argued it was “blatantly obvious” that the government should work with the CCC in corruption inquiries.
“Obviously, the upper house committee has a different view of the law and taking it to the Supreme Court is designed to try to get clarity,” he said.
“I personally think the government should comply with orders of the CCC and that we should work to deal with any potential corruption that might be present, in particular some former MPs that you might be familiar with.”
Meanwhile, public sector commissioner Sharyn O’Neill has been appointed as the public sector coordinator, joining police commissioner Chris Dawson in leading the state’s response to COVID-19.
McGowan said the new role “fits with the commission’s responsibilities more broadly for public sector management”.