30 May 2022

New head of PM&C to drive public service reform

| Ian Bushnell
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Glyn Davis

Professor Glyn Davis served on the panel led by David Thodey to review the APS. Photo: University of Melbourne.

A distinguished public service and university leader has been named the new head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).

The Governor-General has appointed Professor Glyn Davis as the new Secretary of PM&C, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Professor Davis is currently the CEO of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Australia’s largest philanthropic trust.

He will bring an understanding of the changes underway in the Australian Public Service and those Labor plan to pursue, having served on the panel led by David Thodey to review the APS.

READ ALSO PM&C head first to go as APS braces for Albanese Government changes

Labor has called the previous government’s response to the Thodey review a missed opportunity and has pledged to implement the reforms in full as part of its commitment to rebuilding public service capability.

Professor Davis has had a long and distinguished career in both academia and public service, having served as Director-General of the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet from 1998 until 2002 before moving to Vice-Chancellor roles at both Griffith University and the University of Melbourne.

He holds emeritus roles at universities worldwide and has served as Chair of the Group of Eight, Chair of Universities Australia and Chair of Universitas 21.

In 2018 he joined the Crawford School of Public Policy at the ANU as a Distinguished Professor.

In 2010 Professor Davis delivered the Boyer Lectures on the theme The Republic of Learning.

READ ALSO ANU pain pays off to be back in the black

Mr Albanese said Professor Davis would bring to the role a deep understanding of public policy and work with the government in bringing about positive change for the Australian people.

Mr Albanese thanked Philip Gaetjens for his service to the Australian public, both as Secretary of the PM&C since August 2019 and across a 45-year public service career.

Mr Gaetjens, who had been considered close to the former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left PM&C immediately after the election.

Professor Davis will commence his five-year appointment on 6 June 2022.

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He seems like a nice, intelligent guy and long may be reign. I am sure PM&C will be delighted to have him. That said, I agree with the sentiment of ticktock’s comment about the decline the APS and that it has something to do with secretaries no longer being permanent but rather on a 5-year contract terminable any time (as the Barrett case showed). The result: a scared public service with SES terrified of 20-somethings in the Minister’s office and fear cascading down the ranks. One or two brilliant appointments can’t change the structural problem. Individuals will need to make their own choice as to whether the APS is worth it.

Stephen Saunders8:01 am 31 May 22

Nice guy, but will offer the same old Crawford School “boilerplate” IPCC line, just like Frank Jotzo.

Resources giveaways, clear skies to net zero, energy superpower, cheap student labour, mass immigration, rising house prices, you know the drill.

Now is a good time to restore the appointment of permanent heads of departments. The political appointments of department heads has led to the gutting out and down skilling of the APS over the past few decades. Basically, the APS has become top heavy with political appointees serving Ministers and their unaccountable advisers who are hooked on the 24/7 news cycle. The APS got to the point where the notion of ‘frank and fearless’ advice was subsumed to the politics of the day and the risk of dismissal of an agency head if the Minister didn’t like what was said. Professor Davis, working along with the APSC now has a great opportunity to restore the APS as a professional organisation – also offering great careers to all Australians seeking to make a difference in the service of Australia – which is an aspiration sorely missing among the rank and file employees.

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