Albanese chooses new DPM&C head

By Melissa Coade

May 30, 2022

Glyn Davis
Professor Glyn Davis will be the next secretary for DPM&C. (Image: Alan Porritt/AAP)

A public sector stalwart, who has been described as an ‘educational leader’ and ‘public policy thinker’, has been named as the next head of the APS. 

Professor Glyn Davis will be the next secretary for the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet (DPM&C) from 6 June. He replaces Phil Gaetjens, whose tenure serving the previous Coalition government was steeped in political controversy (as these appointments at the very top tend to be). Gaetjens was Scott Morrison’s chief of staff before his appointment to DPM&C head in 2019. 

Davis was the vice-chancellor of Melbourne University for 13 years (2005-2018) and has commented extensively on the decline of capability within the Australian Public Service. As the new head of DPM&C and the APS, he will be the one to strategise and implement the prime minister’s vision of a better-resourced workforce to deliver and administer quality services for the public

And there are few others perhaps as well suited to the ambitious reform agenda Anthony Albanese has in mind for the APS, given Davis personally served as a member of the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service in 2019. He is also chair of the ANZSOG Research Committee.

“To be a partner, one among many operating across a lively network, the commonwealth must not assume control but rather to work within a coalition of service providers around a shared goal,” Davis said in an address on integrity last year.

“It requires humility and collaboration from everyone involved, including public servants and ministers impatient for results.”

“If implemented with skill, the ideas of partners within a network, a rich ecology of communities and charities, agencies and activists, could offer an exciting future for public service,” he said.

From 1998 to 2002 Davis headed the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet under the Beattie government. He then went on to serve as vice-chancellor of Griffith University in 2002 before joining the Melbourne University leadership team. 

The former mandarin and public sector leader has worked at the highest echelons of higher education, with affiliations with ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy and as director of the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies at King’s College London. 

Davis has also held visiting professor roles in the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, at Exeter College, Oxford and as honorary professor in public policy at the University of Manchester. 

Davis obtained a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of New South Wales, and earned his PhD from ANU. In 1983 he took time away from his PhD to assist with the Review of Commonwealth Administration to answer the question ‘why can’t the public service operate like a business?’.

Davis went on to complete post-doctoral appointments as a Harkness Fellow at the University of California Berkeley, the Brookings Institution in Washington DC and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

He later served as chair of the Group of Eight, Chair of Universities Australia and chair of Universitas 21. In 2010, Professor Davis delivered the Boyer Lectures on the theme ‘The Republic of Learning’.

He served as CEO of the $3.6 billion Paul Ramsay Foundation, where he was instrumental in cultivating better collaboration between philanthropy and government. 

Davis is a contemporary of former DPM&C secretary and fellow Victorian Terry Moran, who served as the head of the APS from 2008-2011.

Governor-General David Hurley appointed Davis for a five-year tenure on the prime minister’s recommendation. 

“Professor Davis will bring to the role of secretary a deep understanding of public policy and will work with my government in bringing about positive change for the Australian people,” the PM said.

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