Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a trifecta of top public service changes, with the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Michael Thawley and Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary Peter Varghese both exiting the bureaucracy.
There is growing anticipation and credible but as yet unconfirmed reports that former Treasury chief Dr Martin Parkinson will replace Mr Thawley, whom Mr Turnbull said had expressed a wish “to return to the private sector.”
Drew Clarke, who was the Secretary of the Department of Communications under the Abbott government will stay on as Mr Turnbull’s chief of staff having acted in the role after the leadership change.
Mr Varghese leaves public service for academia in July 2016 and will become the Chancellor of the University of Queensland.
The announcement leaves open three top public service leadership positions, vacancies that are likely to act as a catalyst for more changes as the increasingly popular PM puts his stamp on reforming the bureaucracy through encouragement rather criticism.
That change sentiment was on clearly show, with Mr Turnbull saying he was “very pleased that Mr Clarke will bring his APS and policy experience to my Office.”
Mr Turnbull paid conspicuous tribute to Mr Thawley.
“I am grateful for Michael’s support as my Department Head and I thank him for his leadership of the APS,” Mr Turnbull said.
Career diplomat and intelligence chief Peter Varghese’s substantial contribution was also celebrated by the PM.
“Mr Varghese has had a distinguished career in Australia’s diplomatic service, with postings in India, Malaysia, Tokyo, Washington and Vienna, and as Director-General of the Office of National Assessments. I congratulate Mr Varghese on this prestigious new appointment,” Mr Turnbull said.
Two senior positions which public servants across Canberra will now be watching carefully the wake of the breaking news are that of Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd and Department of Finance Secretary Jane Halton.
It is understood that since the replacement of Mr Abbott by Mr Turnbull there has been a concerted effort from the top to reset the dialogue and focus of the public service away from a punitive campaign of cost reduction to boosting productivity and innovation to modernise the public service.
Mr Turnbull said new appointments to the vacant positions “will be announced in due course.”
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