The South Australian government has poached a mining executive from BHP Billiton to take up the position as the state’s most powerful bureaucrat.
Kym Winter-Dewhirst, a communications specialist and vice-president of the company’s coal business, will replace Jim Hallion as chief executive of the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Hallion recently announced his retirement after two decades in the public service.
Winter-Dewhirst was a lobbyist and spent almost three years as chief of staff to environment minister John Hill in 2002-04 before taking up positions at WMC Resources and BHP. He worked in the state on external and media relations for BHP’s abandoned Olympic Dam expansion before becoming vice-president of coal based in Brisbane.
The appointment is likely to raise eyebrows in government circles for his business links and lack of government experience. SA Premier Jay Weatherill said in a statement on Saturday Winter-Dewhirst brings:
“… a tremendous depth of knowledge and experience from working in one of the world’s largest and most successful companies to the South Australian government … I look forward to working with him in this key leadership role in the public service to continue the state government’s agenda of creating jobs, growing the economy and attracting investment.”
Hallion, who has been chief executive of four government departments, will continue to work in government in a non-executive role. Weatherill paid tribute:
“I have had the pleasure of working with Mr Hallion in many roles and he has contributed a great deal to the state of South Australia in his role as CE at DPC and also in his previous roles at the departments of Industry and Trade, Primary Industries and Resources and Transport, Energy and Infrastructure.
“Mr Hallion is a true professional and has worked with a passionate dedication in advancing South Australia’s interests in all the roles with government.”
The Weatherill government has made a number of changes to the top ranks of the public sector since clinching another term in March, with the heads of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure and Renewal SA changing and a new public sector commissioner in Erma Ranieri promising reform.