WA restructure: premier’s former CoS named head of DPC

By David Donaldson

Monday May 1, 2017

Darren Foster

New directors general have been named for several departments in the aftermath of Western Australia’s massive machinery of government announcement.

Darren Foster, a former chief of staff to West Australian Premier Mark McGowan, has been named to take up the long-vacant role of director general of WA’s Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The announcement comes as the WA government names leaders for several of its new departments, amid one of the largest machinery of government shakeups in recent memory. The number of departments will fall from 41 to 25, the government said on Friday.

Foster’s secondment to acting deputy director general of DPC set the hares running last week, leading to speculation he may be named to the top job — though it wasn’t known the announcement would come quite so quickly.

In late 2015 he was appointed deputy director general of the Department of Fisheries, with responsibility for aquaculture, fisheries management, legal services, environment and biosecurity.

Before that Foster was chief of staff to McGowan, then a minister in several portfolios, for four years until 2008.

The job of WA’s most senior public servant had lain empty since August last year, when Peter Conran retired. The former staffer to John Howard had been in charge of WA’s DPC since not long after the Barnett government came to power in November 2008.

Foster has also served as director of strategic policy and planning in WA’s Office of the Environmental Protection Authority. His new role will encompass not merely the existing Department of Premier and Cabinet, but the policy functions of the current Department of Aboriginal Affairs, which will be folded into DPC.

Heads of new departments named

The government has announced several other directors general to lead the newly merged departments “in the medium term”. Some are largely continuations of existing jobs with new portfolios added, while others represent a reshuffle.

The new directors general will be instructed to deliver a 20% reduction in the 521-member Senior Executive Service. The new departmental structures will begin to come into effect from July 1.

David Smith, acting director general at the Department of Premier and Cabinet since the departure of Peter Conran mid-last year, will become director general of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, which will be formed by the Department of Mines and Petroleum and the Department of Commerce.

Current boss of the Department of the Attorney General and expert on child abuse and family violence Dr Adam Tomison will become the director general of the new Department of Justice, which will comprise the functions of AG’s and the Department of Corrective Services.

Grahame Searle, currently in charge of the cross-portfolio Regional Services Reform Unit, will take charge of the Department of Community Services. The new department will be formed by amalgamating the Department for Child Protection and Family Support, the Department of Housing (including the Housing Authority), the Disability Services Commission and the communities functions at the Department of Local Government and Communities. Searle was previously director general of the Department of Housing from 2008 to 2015.

Ralph Addis will become head of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, which will include the merged functions of the agency which he currently runs, the Department of Regional Development, as well as the Department of Agriculture and Food, the Department of Fisheries and the Regional Development Commissions.

Stephen Wood, who has been head of the Department of State Development since May 2011, will become director general of the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, which will be formed by the merger of his old department with the Department of Commerce’s industry promotion and innovation functions and Tourism WA.

Sharyn O’Neill will remain in place as director general of the Department of Education as it absorbs the Department of Education Services and the School Curriculum and Standards Authority.

Department of Planning boss Gail McGowan will be director general of the new Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, created out of the Department of Planning, the Department of Lands, the State Heritage Office and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs’ lands and heritage functions.

Director general of the Department of Agriculture and Food Mark Webb PSM will lead the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, which includes the Department of Parks and Wildlife, the Botanical Gardens and Parks Authority, the Zoological Parks Authority and the Rottnest Island Authority. He previously spent 12 years in charge of the Botanical Gardens Authority.

Current director general at the Department of Culture and the Arts Duncan Ord OAM will head up the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, which takes in the Department of Local Government and Communities’ local government functions, the Department of Culture and the Arts, the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor and the Department of Sport and Recreation.

Director general at the Department of Water Mike Rowe will take on the top job at the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, to be made up of the Department of Water, the Department of Environmental Regulation and the Office of the Environmental Protection Authority.

Dr Karl O’Callaghan will continue as Commissioner of Western Australia Police, which is to absorb the Road Safety Commission.

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