Anywhere but Canberra for the head of federal Treasury's new Perth office

By Stephen Easton

May 29, 2017

The federal Treasury will open a small Perth office later this year and run it as a “pilot” for two years, “building on the success” of its new outposts in Melbourne and Sydney.

Secretary John Fraser expects the office will help the department build a better understanding of the Western Australian economy, particularly its mining and gas industries, and develop Treasury’s expertise around foreign investment:

“The Perth office will allow Treasury to build relationships with Western Australian stakeholders including those from business, government, academia and the broader community.”

The new office will be headed up by Chris Stavrianou, who recently took up a senior role at the Sydney office following two years studying at the Harvard Kennedy School in the United States.

“Chris brings extensive private-sector experience in mergers and acquisitions and financial markets to Treasury,” according to Fraser’s statement. “He will also continue his work on foreign investment from Perth.”

In a short video posted online in January as part of a series promoting careers at the department, Stavrianou suggests it was a big plus that he could take up his Treasury job without having to leave Sydney, where he previously worked, and extols the city’s many virtues in both lifestyle and business terms.

While Stavrianou has now agreed to move to Perth, the video suggests he would have been far less attracted to the public service job had it required him to live in Canberra, reflecting the central agency’s belief that being based in the national capital is a turn-off for a lot of highly valued candidates.

“I enjoyed working in the private sector, but you just don’t get the chance to have such an impact on the lives of so many Australians,” Stavrianou says, adding that he “moved to Treasury to contribute to issues with a greater purpose than just the bottom line”.

Plans for a presence in Perth have reportedly been on the cards since just after the 2013 election, as part of the wider decentralisation project that saw the two other offices open outside Canberra.

The opposition, which tried to claim the idea as its own two years ago, argued that it was important for the department to have an office in the same time zone as several major Asian cities. At the time, various commentators expressed mixed views about the strength of the business case for offices outside Canberra.

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