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Former defence industry boss Jim McDowell appointed SA’s top public servant

University chancellor and former defence industry boss Jim McDowell has been appointed South Australia’s most senior public servant.

McDowell spent a decade as CEO of BAE Australia, as well as two years in charge of the weapons company’s Saudi Arabian operation.

This background means McDowell “is well placed to guide the South Australian public sector as we seek to take full advantage of the Commonwealth’s naval shipbuilding program and other defence contracts based in South Australia”, said Premier Steven Marshall in a statement.

Unlike SA’s last chief executive of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Don Russell, who started out in Treasury and was head of a federal department before coming to SA, McDowell did not come up through the public service.

He has more recently become involved with the public sector, however. He was appointed chancellor of the University of South Australia in 2016, and is chair of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

McDowell is also a board member of several major Australian businesses and community organisations, including the Adelaide Football Club, the Royal Automobile Association of Australia, manufacturing company Codan and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

He takes over from acting DPC head Erma Ranieri, who has held the reins since the new government was elected four months ago. Ranieri’s role as Commissioner for Public Sector Employment, which she has held since 2014, will be expanded to include responsibility for strategic workforce and leadership development in the public sector.

McDowell will receive a salary of $550,000 — something the Liberals were critical of in opposition.

The pay is “commensurate with the role”, said the premier.

“I would point out that I think that Mr McDowell was on significantly more when he was in the public sector but he is absolutely dedicated to this state.”

Author Bio

David Donaldson

David Donaldson is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Melbourne.