Veteran Queensland mandarin Ken Smith has been announced as the next chief executive and dean of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, and will take over from former Productivity Commission chair Gary Banks on May 15.
Smith has been based in London as Queensland’s trade and investment representative for Europe and Africa since 2011, following four years as director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
He sees the goal of ANZSOG, which was established in 2002 by a trans-Tasman consortium of universities and governments, as working toward a more efficient, effective, ethical, responsive and resilient public sector in both nations.
“The partnership between ten governments and fifteen of our best universities offers a unique platform to systematically address the skill deficits and leadership challenges governments face,” he said in a statement. “The strength and capability of our public sector leadership and the higher education sector also provides an opportunity to share our experiences internationally — particularly in our own region, the Asia-Pacific.”
ANZSOG chair and secretary of the federal Department of Social Services Finn Pratt said Smith had “a vision for moving ANZSOG forward” and the appointment signalled a “new phase” for the postgraduate public administration school. He is ANZSOG’s third dean, following Banks and former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Allan Fels.
“We are now embarking on our next stage of development, which includes expanding our work in executive development solutions and resources for the public sector, growing our work in the Asia-Pacific region and increasing recognition of our brand,” said Pratt.
Smith said his five years working in the United Kingdom, continental Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa had underscored the importance of ongoing public sector reform and development “to effectively manage and respond to the major challenges faced by governments within and across nation states”.
“Australia and New Zealand can benefit as well as contribute to how the public sector is best positioned to respond to the many difficult challenges that inevitably arise,” he added.
His elevation to Queensland’s most senior public servant came after holding the top job in five Queensland agencies, including three large departments, going back to the early 1990s, but also after he survived a couple of years on the political outer.
Sacked as head of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Planning by the government of Rob Borbidge in 1996, on the day he returned from an international conference, Smith went to work for Brisbane City Council, but was brought back into the fold in 1998 by Peter Beattie’s government to lead the Department of Families, Youth, Community Care and Disability Services.
Prior to moving to the sunshine state, he began his public sector career in New South Wales in the 1980s, and has also worked for the Northern Territory government. He has been a member and a chair of both public and private sector boards and held various academic titles — of which he about to receive one more.
Upon commencing with ANZSOG, the University of Melbourne will also appoint Smith as one of its Enterprise Professors, who are supposed to help forge stronger links between academia and industry.
The incoming ANZSOG dean has previously held adjunct professorships with the University of Queensland and the University of Sydney, holds a masters degree in social work, majoring in social policy, and is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educators as well as the Australian College of Educational Leadership.
Just before his move to London in 2011, Smith spoke at length about his public service career in a two-hour interview he contributed to Queensland Speaks, a project that records the memories of politicians, public servants and trade unionists over the 50 years from 1968-2008.