PM flags shake-up of public service, appoints new secretary

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has foreshadowed a campaign of reform in the Australian public service amid confirmation of the departure of his top public servant from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Mr Morrison on Thursday announced that Martin Parkinson would stand down as secretary of PM&C on August 30.

Dr Parkinson will be replaced  by Treasury Secretary Philip Gaetjens on September 2, whose position will be filled by Infrastructure Secretary Dr Steven Kennedy.

The Prime Minister also signalled plans on Thursday to to kick-start cultural and structural changes in the public service, commenting ahead of the pending release of the Thodey report on the independent review into the public service.

Philip Gaetjens

The public service must get on with job of implementing the government’s agenda, Mr Morrison told reporters.

“When it comes to the public service, my view is to respect and expect. Respect their professionalism, respect their capability, respect what they can bring to the table and what they can do, and expect them to get on with the job of implementing the Government’s agenda.”

He said he wanted a public service that was focused on the delivery of programs and initiatives and a streamlining of red tape.

“It’s just not the funding and the regulations that can frustrate this. It can just be the practices of administration within the bureaucracy. And I know that frustrates the bureaucracy as much as it can those who are expecting and waiting on those services.

“So that’s the culture of service that I want to see in the public sector, and that is the approach I’ll be taking and working closely in partnership with the secretaries.”

Labor said it was of concern that the PM had appointed Mr Gaetjens, a long a long term Liberal staffer, to implement the planned changes.

Mr Morrison denied he was politicising the bureaucracy and said the two new appointments were about merit and quality.

“I will always reserve that right to make further changes where I believe they are necessary. I think these are the ones that are necessary right now.”

Mr Parkinson said he had a good personal and professional relationship with the Prime Minister and was leaving on his own terms.

“Absolutely I would not want anyone to think there was anything about my relationship with the Prime Minister that was leading me to leave,” he told the Australian newspaper.

Mr Morrison told the Australian he would move ahead with a shake-up of the bureaucracy across all departments and and that he didn’t expect the public service to run the government.

The Community and Public Sector Union responded to the news by  urging the government  to increase its quota of public servants.

“The most important thing the Prime Minister could do to improve our public services is remove the staffing cap, lift the wages cap and give the public service the funding and policy-settings to rebuild its eroded capacity,” Nadine Flood, CPSU National Secretary said.

“A good government would remove arbitrary impediments to public services delivering and that means a public service with more people, more jobs, the freedom to innovate and collaborate, and the resources to get the work done.”

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