New SA premier sacks four chief executives

By David Donaldson

March 21, 2018

Don Russell.

In a move that has now become commonplace, a change of governing party in South Australia has led to several losses from the senior ranks of the bureaucracy.

Don Russell has been terminated as chief executive of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, it was announced on Wednesday.

Premier Steven Marshall, who was sworn in at the start of the week, is also dumping Michael Deegan of the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, Sandy Pitcher of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and Ingrid Haythorpe of the Attorney-General’s Department.

The government has not announced who will replace them.

“We don’t envisage any other terminations of chief executives in the immediate future,” Marshall said, according to the ABC.

“It’s a new government, it’s a new direction and we feel there are other people that we would like serving in these very, very significant roles.”

Marshall framed it as a de-politicisation of the public service, stating that “we won’t be putting in our mates like Labor did over such a long period of time,” reports the Australian Financial Review.

Severance benefits paid to the four will cost $2 million.

Russell is a former adviser to Paul Keating and ambassador to the United States, and holds a PhD from the London School of Economics. When Tony Abbott won government in 2013 Russell was also fired from his job heading up the federal Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, in what has become known as the ‘night of the short knives.

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