Bowen says Labor would restore Treasury’s independence, hints at Gaetjens removal

Labor’s Treasury spokesperson Chris Bowen has linked the appointment of incoming Treasury department secretary Philip Gaetjens to issues of “integrity of the public service”.

Speaking in Melbourne at a superannuation industry conference this morning, according to The Australian, he reportedly suggested Gaetjens would be removed from the role should Labor win the upcoming federal election.

Phil Gaetjens (AAP Image/Mark Graham)

“It was wrong three years ago when Tony Abbott overturned 113 years of public service tradition by dismissing a nonpartisan Treasury secretary on coming into office,” Bowen reportedly said.

“And far from making things better, the coalition now seems hell bent on undermining the integrity of the public service further.

“If I am Treasurer again in the not too distant future, restoring the independence and nonpartisan nature of this most important body will be a very important priority for me.”

Labor had earlier raised concerns that Treasury advice could no longer to trusted without an independent, nonpartisan secretary at the helm — on the basis that Gaetjens’ employment history includes lengthy roles in political offices, all for Coalition politicians.

However, Gaetjens hit back at those earlier comments telling the Australian Financial Review that he was more of a policy person than a political actor, and should not be judged by who he worked for.

Bowen said it was the first time had criticised a senior public servant.

“And I don’t do so lightly … But I do feel, very, very strongly that [Treasury independence] is being trashed.”

Gaetjens starts at Treasury next week, when Morrison-Abbott appointee John Fraser steps down as the department’s secretary.

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