Adamson departure clears way for shakeup

By Chris Johnson

Thursday May 20, 2021

2022 Queen’s Birthday public sector honours listed here. (Image: Adobe/Rafael Ben-Ari)

Frances Adamson’s imminent departure from the helm of DFAT clears the path for a major shakeup in the senior ranks of the APS.

Adamson will end her five-year term as secretary of the foreign affairs department on June 25 to take up the post of South Australian governor later this year.

Speculation is now rife within political and public sector circles as to how the knock-on effect of her leaving will shape up.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has a timely opportunity to seriously restructure the APS leadership.

Beyond DFAT, other departments likely to be impacted include Defence, Home Affairs, Attorney-General and even Prime Minister and Cabinet.

It is widely believed that Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo is gunning for the Defence gig so he can work closely again with his former boss Peter Dutton.

Dutton, formerly home affairs minister but now defence minister, sees Pezzullo as a trusted confidant.

Current defence secretary Greg Moriarty could be moved in to run DFAT, leaving the way clear for Pezzullo to join Dutton in defence.

But The Mandarin understands that is not the prime minister’s preferred option at this stage.

Neither is a straight swap of Moriarty and Pezzullo in the defence and home affairs portfolios.

Pezzullo’s recent Anzac Day address to staff sparked a furore when he warned of the ‘drums of war’ beating once more.

Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews was forced to publicly defend Pezzullo’s comments, while also toning down his message.

The incident could prove a negative for any ambitions Pezzullo might have for a shift to defence or even DFAT.

“I’m not sure Pezzullo is going to move,” a well-placed source told The Mandarin.

“It would be seen as a very controversial decision, particularly if it was to appoint him to run defence.

“His comments were dangerous and Karen Andrews needs to put in some time to train her secretary.”

Moriarty is considered a contender for DFAT but is thought to be keen to hold onto his defence role.

DFAT deputy secretaries Tony Sheehan and Justin Hayhurst, as well as former ambassador to Indonesia Paul Grigson, are seen as serious contenders for the top DFAT job.

“I think it’s a fair bet that the PM will promote from within when it comes to DFAT,” another source said.

“But logic doesn’t always win through.”

In the Attorney-General’s department, a new secretary will be needed following Chris Moraitis’ appointment as director-general of the new Office of the Special Investigator, tasked with investigating war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

And Phil Gaetjens is thought to be looking to retire this year from his role as secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“Morrison has the chance to make some big changes with all the moves going on,” a source said.

“Before this year is out we could be looking at a very different leadership structure and changes in culture across the public service.”


Frances Adamson named SA governor

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