PM slashes departments, five secretaries to go in overhaul of APS

Ian Bushnell 6 December 2019 94
Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants a more efficient Public Service. Photo: Screenshot.

The number of Federal Government departments will be slashed from 18 to 14 as part of an overhaul of the Australian Public Service announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison today.

The changes, which take effect from 1 February 2020, will consolidate department functions and mean the departure of five Secretaries. It is unclear what impact there will be on jobs but Labor says the changes must not be used as an excuse to cut thousands more public sector jobs.

The controversial pairing of Environment and Energy has been axed, with Environment going to the new Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, while Energy is bound for the new Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, which will also take in the small business functions from the current Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.

Current Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Energy David Fredericks will move across to lead Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

A former department secretary, Andrew Metcalfe, will return to the APS from Ernst and Young to lead Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

Education will now sit with Skills and Employment in a new department, while Communications and Arts will go to the new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

Services Australia (formerly known as the Department of Human Services) will be established as a new Executive Agency within the Social Services Department.

There will also be a new agency to respond to the drought and north Queensland floods, headed by former Country Liberal chief minister of the Northern Territory Shane Stone.

“The remit of the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency will be expanded to include drought with Shane Stone leading the new National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency, providing national leadership and a whole-of-government response to support farmers and regional communities as they respond to, and recover from, the drought and the north Queensland flood from earlier this year,” Mr Morrison said.

The Agency will sit within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and report to the Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, David Littleproud.

Ten departments remain unchanged.

The five secretaries who will leave the APS are Kerri Hartland (Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business), Renée Leon (Human Services), Mike Mrdak (Communications and The Arts), Daryl Quinlivan (Agriculture) and Dr Heather Smith (Industry, Innovation and Science).

Mr Morrison said the changes would ensure services were delivered more effectively and efficiently.

“Having fewer departments will allow us to bust bureaucratic congestion, improve decision-making and ultimately deliver better services for the Australian people,” he said.

“The new structure will drive greater collaboration on important policy challenges. For example, better integrating the Government’s education and skills agenda and ensuring Australians living in regional areas can access the infrastructure and services they need.”

But the public servants union says that slashing four departments and creating super-departments will only escalate the crisis in government service delivery.

It called on the Government to release the Thodey Report into the APS that it has been sitting on since September and to reverse the Average Staffing Level cap.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said the Prime Minister was out of ideas and Thodey had not recommended the creation of super-departments.

“Moving buildings and merging departments does not fix the service crisis created by his own government,” she said. “We know that since 2013, 18,908 or 11.4 per cent of public service jobs have been cut under successive Liberal Governments, causing enormous damage to the capacity of the Commonwealth to deliver policy and essential services that all Australians rely upon.”

She said the changes would not address the 48 million unanswered calls to Human Services in 2017-2018 or the further 5.3 million calls abandoned out of frustration, or the delays in the Family Court, and the challenges the CSIRO faces.

“The community does not care about Canberra games. They care if their call to Centrelink gets answered or if their Robodebt gets fixed; that their visa gets processed; that we meet our climate targets; and that our biosecurity officers can stop threats at the border,” Ms Donnelly said.

“This announcement today doesn’t fix any of the mess the Morrison Government has made and doesn’t do anything about the ASL cap or budget restraints.”

Katy Gallagher

Katy Gallagher: Public service faces an uncertain future. Photo: George Tsotsos

Opposition public service spokesperson and ACT Senator Katy Gallagher said the Prime Minister had refused to guarantee there would be no job cuts, saying this would be a decision for secretaries.

She said successive Coalition governments had already cut almost 19,000 jobs cut since taking office, with 3,158 jobs gone in the last financial year alone.

“At this time of economic uncertainty the last thing this nation needs is more jobs cuts,” she said.

Senator Gallagher said the changes occurred without seeking advice from some of the departments involved or with regard to the effect of the changes on government efficiency and the quality of its services.

“Simply sacking people and changing the titles of some departments will not deal with the big challenges facing the public service,” she said. “Public servants working for this government will now be forced to head into Christmas uncertain about what 2020 brings for them and their families.”

The new structure of departments and Secretaries, on 1 February 2020, will be:

  • Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment: Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO
  • Attorney-General’s Department: Mr Chris Moraitis PSM
  • Department of Defence: Mr Greg Moriarty
  • Department of Education, Skills and Employment: Dr Michelle Bruniges AM
  • Department of Finance: Ms Rosemary Huxtable PSM
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Ms Frances Adamson
  • Department of Health: Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM
  • Department of Home Affairs: Mr Michael Pezzullo
  • Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources: Mr David Fredericks
  • Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications: Mr Simon Atkinson
  • Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet: Mr Philip Gaetjens
  • Department of Social Services: Ms Kathryn Campbell AO CSC
  • Department of the Treasury: Dr Steven Kennedy PSM
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs: Ms Liz Cosson AM CSC

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94 Responses to PM slashes departments, five secretaries to go in overhaul of APS
HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:12 pm 08 Dec 19

Foreign Affairs and Trade is the only merger which has survived from a similar exercise in 1987. Transport and Communications were merged and later de-merged, and it is difficult to see a compelling logic for putting them back together in a department which has other significant responsibilities, particularly when the economic and technological importance and complexity of “communications” has grown so much.

But for the fact that Immigration is already part of a mega-department, it could have been grouped with Education. We so often hear that a high rate of immigration is needed due to skills shortages, at the same time as we hear about serious rates of under-employment and hidden unemployment – which doesn’t quite make sense……

J.m. Byrne J.m. Byrne 10:55 pm 07 Dec 19

Why is the PM preoccupied with reshuffling government departments while the East Coast of the continent is on fire 🥵😡

    Cathie Cummins Cathie Cummins 10:41 am 08 Dec 19

    J.m. Byrne getting ready for lost revenue and increased costs?

liberalsocialist liberalsocialist 6:45 pm 06 Dec 19

When are they going to realise they’ve cut the APS so savagely over the past 10 years under the guise of ‘efficiency’, while at the same time demanding more of them they have passed the point of anything at all being efficient. Get more staff into the departments again (at the APS6 and below level) and you will see the results you continue to try and achieve by cutting numbers. It’s not red tape that takes forever to get a result anymore – it’s the one APS member that has too much to deal with trying to wade through their work as best they can. I’ve worked for private (banking sector) and public service – and the APS in so many areas is more lean than the private sector now.

Darron Marks Darron Marks 4:52 pm 06 Dec 19

That should really help boost the re-election chances for the ACT liberals 🙈

George Desira George Desira 3:01 pm 06 Dec 19

Why do we keep paying top dollars for politicians who keep reducing their responsibilities? Less responsibility=less dollars in my book !

Steph Burgess Steph Burgess 8:37 am 06 Dec 19

And Arts ceases to exists... item no (dunno, well along the list) in the authoritarian playbook. A $100B contributor to the National bottom line now finds itself consumed by the (... hang on, let me check the wordy new title...) Dept of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications... Sure. Because building a railway and staging amateur theatrical performances have so much in common, culturally. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️ I wonder how far off the book/script/score burning parties are?

    Stephen Devine Stephen Devine 2:24 pm 06 Dec 19

    Steph Burgess https://www.thebigidea.nz/stories/soapbox-opinion-piece-by-jacinda-ardern

Deborah Mesman Deborah Mesman 7:33 am 06 Dec 19

Just shuffling the deck chairs while we go down the gurgler😡

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 7:16 am 06 Dec 19

After a 20 year career in Employment with or without Education, I say, even when they’re paired up, they scarcely talk to each other.

For the first time since 1971, we’ve no Environment Department. As country burns and rivers run dry, Bad Scotty orders the environment to Do As It’s Told By God.

Karen Stratton Karen Stratton 7:04 am 06 Dec 19

More smoke and mirrors

Judy-Ann Emberson Judy-Ann Emberson 1:18 am 06 Dec 19

Ultimate Liberal belief is less Public Service. It is a shame it is not their income

Dony Teller Dony Teller 12:27 am 06 Dec 19

Seems reckless

Joe Coppin Joe Coppin 10:48 pm 05 Dec 19

So using his same figures a 22% reduction in departments should we then expect the house of representatives to be reduced by an equivalent percentage as well.

Instead of 151 members there would only be 117 that's a great saving of 34 members plus the associated costs. Lol 😂

I reckon its all timed to distract the average public from other key issues we need to be alert to.

Gayle Brown Gayle Brown 10:23 pm 05 Dec 19

You keep cutting jobs, yet, we are all expected to work into our seventies. Bad government decision.

Jeanette Zvargulis Jeanette Zvargulis 10:18 pm 05 Dec 19

These changes to the APS cost the taxpayer an absolute fortune - they should tell us how much!!!!

In the mean time the farming communities are in crisis, the east coast is on fire and our country is being sold out from under us to China - Please when will they deal with the real issues!

Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 10:08 pm 05 Dec 19

And watch them hire them back as contractors!

Smaller APS... Technically.

Bec O'Brien Bec O'Brien 10:08 pm 05 Dec 19

Officially finish my Federal Public Service career tomorrow. Now, heading into Aged Care as an Occupational Therapist.

    Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 10:31 pm 05 Dec 19

    Bec O'Brien well done, you made it

    Bec O'Brien Bec O'Brien 10:33 pm 05 Dec 19

    Lyndon Zoukowski yeah. 10 years. Variety of roles, but pleased to be moving on.

    Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 10:37 pm 05 Dec 19

    Well you made so don't look back. Sounds like a good career move. 😁👍

Roger Mungummary Roger Mungummary 10:04 pm 05 Dec 19

Makes it harder for the public service to keep track of their corrupt schemes. Then you prosecute journalists and whistle blowers and edge closer to Dutton and ScuMo ideal totalitarian Christian state

Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 9:13 pm 05 Dec 19

And who is going to do the work of those 5 people and their support staff? Expect more dumb decisions and chaos.

Karna O'Dea Karna O'Dea 9:09 pm 05 Dec 19

why noi get rid of the pollies at the same time and save real money

Jack Kinross Jack Kinross 9:06 pm 05 Dec 19

Amalgamate the Greens into the Labour Party. Same thing really.

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