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Victorian service reshuffle: super-departments born

The new Victorian government’s bureaucratic reshuffle will bring power closer to the centre. But will it make departments too big to manage? The Mandarin has the details.

Incoming Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ (pictured) machinery of government changes have met with mixed responses from public servants.

The reforms have continued the centralisation of the Victorian government, paring back the number of departments from nine to seven from January 1. This follows a reduction from 11 departments enacted by the Coalition.

The new Special Minister of State, Gavin Jennings, will oversee government transparency, accountability, integrity and public sector administration and reform.

But some public servants have expressed concern that the ballooning of a few departments might make it difficult for secretaries to exercise effective control over their charges.

The Department of Premier and Cabinet, to be led by Chris Eccles, will be taking on a lot of new work, assuming responsibility for the new portfolios of Equality and the Prevention of Family Violence, as well as providing assistance to a host of agencies including the Independent Broad-Based Anti-corruption Commission, the Victorian Electoral Commission and the Auditor-General, among others. The sale of the Port of Melbourne will be dealt with by DPC.

Dean Yates, who has led the Department of Transport Planning and Local Infrastructure since 2013 and previously was deputy secretary at DPC, will oversee the creation of Labor’s promised new agencies Infrastructure Victoria and Projects Victoria from inside DPC. This should allow for strong central agency co-ordination in delivering the new government’s key infrastructure initiatives.

Infrastructure Victoria, modeled on similar bodies at federal level and in New South Wales, will be created as a nonpartisan agency to oversee a pipeline of infrastructure projects across electoral cycles. Projects Victoria “will ensure that the delivery of major projects stays on track”, says the government.

It will remain to be seen, however, whether the unprecedented number of portfolios being held by the Premier’s department — ranging from community development to infrastructure planning and delivery to integrity functions — will allow it to continue its traditional responsibility of policy co-ordination and advice to the best of its abilities.

One source believes “there is a danger that the focus on ‘non-traditional’ functions could impact on the quality of its core function, which itself needs reinvigoration and renewal in terms of skills and capabilities. Much will depend on the structure that Chris Eccles puts in place to manage this diversity.”

Howard Ronaldson, who has led the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation (and its predecessors) since May 2008, will be given the role of administrator of Ambulance Victoria.

The new Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources will bring together a large range of portfolios contributing to the state’s economic development under the direction of Richard Bolt, who has been secretary of the Department of Education and Early Childhood since 2011.

The super-department will have responsibility for public transport, agriculture, creative industries, employment, energy and resources, industry, ports, regional development, roads and road safety, small business, innovation and trade, tourism and large events. Time will tell how well this diverse group of portfolios will work together.

Bolt made headlines earlier this year by commenting at a conference that the Commonwealth should allow the states more power in running their education systems.

Prior to joining Education, Bolt was secretary of the Department of Primary Industries between 2006 and 2011, with responsibility for agriculture, energy, fisheries, mining and forestry. He also happens to be the brother of right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt.

Adam Fennessy will move from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries to the new Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. The restructure confirms rumours that Labor would split up the Environment and Agriculture portfolios, which has spent much of the last 18 months working to combine, following a restructure to unite the former departments of Sustainability and Environment and Primary Industries.

Staff at DEPI are reportedly furious at the split, and the fact that many only found out about the changes in the news, though the Community and Public Sector Union welcomed the change.

“The realignment of departmental structures and reporting lines better reflects ministerial responsibility,” said Community and Public Sector Union federal secretary Karen Batt, who called the creation of DEPI a “failed merger”. “The increased emphasis on environment and water with land usage is welcome and better reflects all component parts of the planning process.”

A reunited Department of Health and Human Services will be led by Dr Pradeep Philip, who has headed up the Department of Health for the past two and a half years. Previously he spent time in the senior ranks of the Victorian and Queensland DPCs, and was director of policy in the Prime Minister’s Office in Canberra between 2007 and 2009.

Some believe the previous iteration of Health and Human Services was too large to be managed effectively, so many will be watching to see what happens this time.

One insider told The Mandarin: “The re-establishment of a Health and Human Services Department makes sense, although it will be a challenge to ensure that the non-health parts of the department are properly funded. The Housing, Disability and Child Protection functions have been under-resourced for years.”

David Martine will stay as head of the Department of Treasury and Finance, a position he has held since February this year. In a move that may signal a lack of faith in Martine’s leadership, DTF has lost Workplace Relations, Ports Transaction and Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission.

Victoria’s ICT shared services agency CenITex, seen by some as having been a failure, will be placed under the purview of DTF.

Gill Callister, who has been secretary at the Department of Human Services since 2009, will be put in charge of the new Department of Education and Training. Callister is president of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (Victoria) and in 2013 received a Sir James Wolfensohn Public Service Scholarship to attend Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

The new Department of Justice and Regulation will be led by Greg Wilson, head of the Department of Justice since April 2013.

The details released by the government:

The government is becoming more streamlined through a reduction in the number of government departments from nine to seven, effective 1 January 2015.The Department of Premier and Cabinet will be led by Mr Chris Eccles and support the following portfolios:

  • Premier
  • Deputy Premier
  • Special Minister of State
  • Aboriginal Affairs
  • Equality
  • Multicultural Affairs
  • Prevention of Family Violence
  • Veterans
  • Women

In addition, the Department of Premier and Cabinet portfolio now includes providing support in relation to the Auditor-General, the Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection, the Freedom of Information Commissioner, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate, the Public Interest Monitor, the Victorian Electoral Commission, the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission, and the Victorian Inspectorate.

DPC is also assuming responsibility for Major Projects Victoria and the Port Transaction Unit.

The new Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources will be led by Mr Richard Bolt and support the following portfolios:

  • Public Transport
  • Agriculture
  • Creative Industries
  • Employment
  • Energy and Resources
  • Industry
  • Ports
  • Regional Development
  • Roads and Road Safety
  • Small Business, Innovation and Trade
  • Tourism and Major Events (including major sporting events)

The new Department of Education and Training will be led by Ms Gill Callister and support the following portfolios:

  • Education
  • Training and Skills
  • Families and Children (in respect of children and early years responsibilities)

The new Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning will be led by Mr Adam Fennessy and support the following portfolios:

  • Environment, Climate Change and Water
  • Local Government
  • Planning

The new Department of Health and Human Services will be led by Dr Pradeep Philip and support thefollowing portfolios:

  • Health
  • Ambulance Services
  • Families and Children
  • Housing, Disability and Ageing
  • Mental Health
  • Sport (except for major sporting events)
  • Youth Affairs

The new Department of Justice and Regulation will be led by Mr Greg Wilson and support the following portfolios:

  • Attorney-General
  • Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation
  • Corrections
  • Emergency Services
  • Police
  • Racing

The Department of Treasury and Finance will be led by Mr David Martine and support the following portfolios:

  • Treasurer
  • Finance
  • Roads and Road Safety (in respect of the Transport Accident Commission)

DTF is also assuming responsibility for CenITex.

The full statement from the Premier can be found here.

Author Bio

David Donaldson

David Donaldson is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Melbourne.