New leadership within the Australian Public Service

New leadership within the Australian Public Service
September 7, 2017 Parker and Partners

07 September 2017:

In one announcement, Prime Minister Turnbull has rewritten the Canberra public service landscape with roughly half of the public service portfolios to receive new leadership.

The reshuffle has a tinge of falling dominoes with all movements taking place off the back of two retirements in the portfolios of health and environment, however, it says more about the priorities of the Prime Minister and his Government leading into the next election. A number of secretaries known for having a ‘safe pair of hands’ have been placed in areas of political priority or potential weakness for the Coalition including energy, infrastructure, industry and innovation, and health. This speaks volumes for the policy areas that we expect the Prime Minister and his team to action, such as including energy and infrastructure; areas that they hope to neutralise including health and the NBN over the next 12 to 18 months. There will be a ‘no mistakes’ tolerance to those heading up these core policy areas.

While many within the private sector may sigh at the need to establish relationships and educate policy makers on their own priorities, this change yet again signals the Government’s commitment to break down the silos across the portfolios. It also points to a belief that public servants with broader experiences, who are able to look at issues with a whole of government perspective, will deliver better solutions.

The move also signals somewhat of a generational change with a number of rising stars within the bureaucracy ‘promoted’ by rising up the priority list of public service agencies. Many of these are women – five in total in this announcement – an important detail given the public service still faces a gender disparity amongst those sitting at the top table.

The announced changes

 Currently employed as…Moving to…
Finn Pratt AO PSMSecretary, Department of Social ServicesSecretary, Department of the Environment and Energy
Glenys Beauchamp PSMSecretary, Department of Industry, Innovation and ScienceSecretary, Department of Health
Dr Heather Smith PSMSecretary, Department of Communications and the ArtsSecretary, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
Mike Mrdak AOSecretary, Department of Infrastructure and Regional DevelopmentSecretary, Department of Communications and the Arts
Kathryn Campbell CSCSecretary, Department of Human ServicesSecretary, Department of Social Services
Renée Leon PSMSecretary, Department of EmploymentSecretary, Department of Human Services
Kerri HartlandDeputy Secretary, Department of FinanceSecretary, Department of Employment
Dr Steven Kennedy PSMDeputy Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and CabinetSecretary, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
Michael Pezzullo


Secretary, Department of Immigration and Border ProtectionSecretary-designate, Department of Home Affairs

What’s next?

The changes are timed nicely with the process to develop next year’s Federal Budget set to begin in the coming months allowing the secretaries to get their feet under the desk after beginning their roles on 18 September 2017.
The question is how long these new secretaries will be serving their Minister with the Prime Minister set to reshuffle his ministerial team before the end of 2017. Once again, this is likely to herald just what policies will be important to the Prime Minister and his team as they seek re-election.

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