Frances Adamson tipped to lead DFAT if government is returned

By Stephen Easton

June 21, 2016

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet foreign policy adviser Frances Adamson has been tipped as the government’s preferred candidate to take over as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, assuming the Coalition is returned to power.

Greg Sheridan reports in The Australian that before caretaker period took effect, Adamson was all but selected for the job from a short list of three, ahead of Attorney-General’s Department boss Chris Moraitis and Greg Moriarty, who is currently in the newly created cross-agency role of counter-terrorism co-ordinator. A longer list of six candidates leaked earlier this month.

The surprising leaks places the appointment right where it’s not meant to be — square in the middle of the election campaign — but Sheridan also claims a formal recommendation from PM&C head Martin Parkinson had not gone through before the campaign kicked off.

The Mandarin has not been able to confirm whether Sheridan is on the money but his close connections with members of the Coalition would suggest he has credibility on the subject.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was confronted with the claims on Tuesday, but remained coy.

“Were it to be a woman that would be notable because of course it would be the first female secretary of DFAT and that is obviously a milestone, just as people often comment on the fact that I’m the first female foreign minister of Australia. The first always draws comment.”

If the government were to snatch defeat from the jaws of predicted victory in the July 2 poll, which falls on the weekend directly after Peter Varghese’s tenure as DFAT secretary ends, the appointment process would presumably restart although the naming of Adamson during the campaign could make for some awkward conversations.

According to Sheridan, Adamson, Moraitis and Moriarty were preferred over Australian Secret Intelligence Service boss Nick Warner and Gary Quinlan, who is preparing to step into Varghese’s office as acting secretary. Other sources suggested the same five names earlier this month plus the ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, made up the shortlist of six.

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