Abbott reveals partial secretarial reshuffle

By Julian Bajkowski

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced that the head of Treasury, Martin Parkinson PSM, will stand down from his job in April 2014, along with three other department heads, in the first tranche of what is expected to be a substantial reshuffle of department heads under the new government.

Announced as part of Machinery of Government changes released following the swearing in of the Abbott government on Wednesday, the planned departure of the Treasury chief will come almost immediately before the next Federal Budget and leaves the position open for ascendant contenders who believe they can work to implement the policies of the new regime.

Also exiting their positions are Andrew Metcalfe AO, Dr Don Russell and Mr Blair Comley PSM whom Mr Abbott said had “made a substantial contribution to public life in Australia.”

The departure of Mr Metcalfe, who had been secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and was a previous Secretary of the Department of Immigration, will be considered one of the biggest losses of experience inside the Canberra bureaucracy where he was widely considered to be one of the safest pairs of hands when dealing with controversial and difficult issues.

Mr Metcalfe is being replaced by Dr Paul Grimes PSM, who moves across from his role as Secretary of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

Under Ministerial portfolio changes announced on Tuesday, it appears that Dr Grimes will take charge of a department with a likely truncated name of just ‘Environment’ which reports to minister Greg Hunt.

Dr Don Russell, who was Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research And Tertiary Education, is being replaced by Glenys Beauchamp PSM, who moves from her role as Secretary of the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sports.

Ms Beauchamp’s new official job title has also been simplified by Mr Abbott to be the Secretary of the Department of Industry, which reports to Ian Macfarlane as minister.

In terms of detail, it is less immediately clear how the departure of Blair Comley’s as the head of the Department Resources, Energy and Tourism will play out, particularly in terms of departmental reporting structures, most of which now reflect Mr Abbot’s passion for minimalist portfolio names.

However other changes and appointments announced today indicate that the loss of long names doesn’t necessarily lead to the removal of senior bureaucrats.

Mr Abbott said Lisa Paul PSM AO has been appointed as the Secretary of the Department of Education.

Given that Ms Paul most recently held the position of Secretary of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations there may not too many tears over the often politically combative field of industrial relations being dispatched to a different part of the bureaucracy.

There have also been notable promotions.

Dr Gordon de Brouwer PSM has secured a full secretary’s position as the head of the Department of the Environment after a stint as Associate Secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet where Mr Abbott said he had “primary responsibility for advising on Australia’s participation in the G20 process.”

Also elevated is Renée Leon PSM, who has been appointed as the Secretary of the Department of Employment which answers to Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz.

Ms Leon was previously a Deputy Secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet where she headed the governance group and is well known in Canberra legal circles from her time as the head of the ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety.

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