'A wonderful experience': Ian Watt's goodbye to colleagues

By The Mandarin

October 31, 2014

Dear colleagues,

On Monday, 27 October 2014, after thirty years in the APS, I submitted my resignation to the Governor‑General.  The resignation takes effect at midnight on Sunday, 30 November 2014.  As many of you are aware, I considered it important that the Secretary of PM&C stay to provide continuity in the change to the new government.  The transition is well and truly completed, and the Prime Minister and I agreed my departure date some months ago as a natural end point following the G20 Summit in Brisbane.

For the last thirty years, I have wrapped my life around my work as a public servant.  The proportion of my life absorbed by work has grown over time, with significant increases when I first became a Portfolio Secretary and, more recently, when I became Secretary of PM&C.  It is now time for me, instead, to wrap work around my life.

I have had a wonderful experience in the APS.  That has been a product of the people I have worked with and the issues that I have worked on.  Whether my work colleagues have been public servants or Prime Ministers, Ministers, ministerial staffers or members of the private sector, I have invariably found them to be high quality individuals, highly professional, and committed to securing what they considered the best possible results for Australia.  I have also invariably been fortunate to work on issues that matter to Australia.

The last three years have been the pinnacle of my career.  I will miss my job greatly but, I suspect, much more than my job will miss me.  The current PM&C Executive is well-equipped to help ensure that PM&C continues to deliver the high-quality advice and services that it does now.  Similarly, in the current Secretaries Board, we have a body that will continue to take the APS forward.  Both bodies will, I have no doubt, do very well without me.

My successor, Mr Michael Thawley AO, has been a senior public servant, International Adviser to Prime Minister Howard, Ambassador to the US, and most recently he has worked successfully in the private sector.  He knows PM&C from his time as First Assistant Secretary, International Division in the early/mid 1990s.  He has a wealth of experience and I believe if he gets the same great support from the Department that you have given me for the last three years, he will be well‑placed to perform in his new role.

I want to thank everyone I have worked with in PM&C, Finance, Defence and Communications, and in the public services as a whole, for their collegiality, their commitment, and above all their willingness to do the best possible job for the Government and for Australia.  I will miss you very much.

As to my very future, I have no plans to retire.  I intend to spend a bit more time with my wife, I have a lot of travelling to catch up on and I have a book to write (but not one about government).  I will take a few months off and then see what the future holds for the next stage of my career.

A copy of the Prime Minister’s announcement about my resignation and Mr Thawley’s appointment is attached.

I J Watt


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