Baird plunders Canberra’s digital talent

Baird no stopping


The flow of talented senior public servants finding greener pastures away from Canberra’s hard pruned bureaucracy has chalked-up another impressive exit.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird has named Martin Hoffman, formerly the Deputy Secretary of the federal Department of Industry and Science, and one time chief executive of NineMSN as the new head of the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation.

Mr Hoffman’s appointment comes as the Baird government continues to keep its foot down on the accelerator in terms of public sector reform where major changes to and investments in improved customer service and technology driven innovation have paid back substantial political capital as public satisfaction levels with the bureaucracy enjoy new highs.

At a time when many senior public servants are under increasing pressure to demonstrate their digital age smarts, Mr Hoffman represents somewhat of a paradox in technology business circles having traded-in a high flying digital career for public servitude at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2009.

His departure is unlikely to be the kind of Digital Transformation the federal government is looking for as Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull tries to motivate a major online shift among agencies.

Also getting a conspicuous promotion is Tim Reardon who becomes the Secretary for Transport for NSW after serving as Deputy Secretary from 2011 and acting Secretary from February, a move that is sure to bring much needed leadership continuity to one of the state’s most sensitive portfolios.

“Tim will provide strong leadership at Transport for NSW as we ramp up our bold infrastructure agenda, including Australia’s biggest public transport project, Sydney Metro,” Mr Baird said.

Bold is no understatement as the government battens down for substantial disruption in the Sydney CBD as rips up George Street to drive through a light rail connection to take unsustainable pressure off crawling city busses.

The two NSW secretarial appointments are particularly significant because they come in portfolios where the Baird government has delivered conspicuous and reform-led success that have afforded it greater latitude to make otherwise difficult policy calls in other areas.

In Finance this has included the creation of Service NSW as a retail customer front end that took its cues from commercial successes, including the banking industry and companies like Apple, and applied them to government services consumed by the public.

On the Transport side, the NSW has been hard-selling the benefits of using improved public transport to anyone who will listen after it upped service frequencies and went to war on congestion points and bottlenecks, even allowing senior bureaucrats to hit talkback radio station to push their point over that of shock jocks.

Mr Baird wasted no time in up-selling the merits of his latest promotions as “outstanding candidates who bring dynamism and vast experience to these critical roles in delivering government services to the public”.

“A priority of this government is to embrace innovation and new technology to drive excellence in customer service,” Mr Baird said.

“Martin’s mix of public sector and business experience makes him the ideal person to head up this newly-formed department.”

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