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

Ian Bushnell 18 May 2021 87
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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87 Responses to PM slashes departments, five secretaries to go in overhaul of APS
Marky McCool Marky McCool 6:11 pm 05 Dec 19

Merry Christmas to those that are looking at losing their jobs this Christmas..


Good old lib way..


Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 6:13 pm 05 Dec 19

"the new Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment" won't have any conflicts of interest to the detriment of environmental concerns, now will it? I don't imagine Science proper will get much of a go in the 'Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources' either.

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 6:21 pm 05 Dec 19

    This is a genuine concern.

    Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 6:22 pm 05 Dec 19

    Martin Budden Not that we've had a Minister FOR the Environment since Rabbit the Wrecker became PM.

    Robyn Butler Robyn Butler 8:44 pm 05 Dec 19

    Mark Chapman this is definitely one of the scarier parts of the decision...

    Mark McEwen Mark McEwen 8:50 pm 05 Dec 19

    Mark, this is what Brazil did.. and look at the results there 🤷‍♂️

    Patricia Clark Patricia Clark 9:14 pm 05 Dec 19

    Mark Chapman also there a 3 minister’s there to run 1 department ? How is that efficient?

    Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 9:19 pm 05 Dec 19

    Patricia Clark Who knows? Certainly not MoralsNone.

    Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 10:10 pm 05 Dec 19

    Mark Chapman I don't remember posting this!

Dory Johns Dory Johns 6:13 pm 05 Dec 19

What performance measures are they putting in place so we can verify that the Government's claims for better service delivery actually happens?

    Cathy Stephenson Cathy Stephenson 6:44 pm 05 Dec 19

    Dory Johns there are no current performance measures with our politicians, I don’t expect to see any due to these changes either.

    Ingrid Mears Ingrid Mears 6:46 pm 05 Dec 19

    It's a bloody disgrace

    Dory Johns Dory Johns 6:49 pm 05 Dec 19

    Ingrid. Yes it is.

    Bronwyn Meredith Bronwyn Meredith 9:15 pm 05 Dec 19

    I bet there are no performance measures because the government doesn't give a rats. They just want an excuse to cut the APS. Their ideology embraces "smaller" government which is really another way of saying a "user-pays" system. It suits the Murdochs of this world -- i.e. the Coalition's donors -- but would make life a misery for the disadvantaged and those on low incomes -- i.e. non-donors.

    Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 10:00 pm 05 Dec 19

    Dory Johns isn’t an election a performance measure?

    Cathy Stephenson Cathy Stephenson 10:56 pm 05 Dec 19

    Daniel Oyston I’m sure if we had a crystal ball prior to our last election, Sco Mo would NOT be our current Prime Minister, obviously it is not.

    Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 11:10 pm 05 Dec 19

    Cathy Stephenson people say that no matter who the PM is

    Cathy Stephenson Cathy Stephenson 8:11 am 06 Dec 19

    Daniel Oyston true, fully agree, though we have had better leaders in the past. I don’t like any of our current options for a PM, though, there are some Senators out there that would be a good choice.

    Ingrid Mears Ingrid Mears 8:30 am 06 Dec 19

    Cathy Stephenson nor do i

    Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 11:02 am 06 Dec 19

    Evidence is a Lefty conspiracy, don'cher know?

Jeannou Zoides Jeannou Zoides 6:15 pm 05 Dec 19

Slash his job

Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 6:18 pm 05 Dec 19

Shuffling deck chairs on Titanic.

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 6:23 pm 05 Dec 19

    I disagree. The public service and the government are not the same thing. Even if this government is sinking (let's hope!) the public service will remain.

    Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 6:27 pm 05 Dec 19

    ok on the SS Scomo then 🤷‍♂️

    Cathy Stephenson Cathy Stephenson 6:47 pm 05 Dec 19

    Martin Budden with David Littleproud taking over one of the departments, sorry to say, your comment is mute.😞

    Dan Rayner Dan Rayner 7:17 pm 05 Dec 19

    Shane Jasprizza more like (and I’m so glad that between you and Martin I get to use this analogy) grist to the mill!

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 7:20 pm 05 Dec 19

    Dan Rayner nice brewing pun.

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 7:22 pm 05 Dec 19

    More like shuffling deck chairs on the Carpathia: some people get a better position, some people get a worse position, but they all get to say they were there when ScoMo sank.

Peggy Rose Peggy Rose 6:32 pm 05 Dec 19

Of corse it will ,there will be a lot of people losing their jobs

Jodie Moore Jodie Moore 6:36 pm 05 Dec 19

It's OK - he's just making sure he has money for his next payrise.

Kate Jacobs Kate Jacobs 6:38 pm 05 Dec 19

The cost of restructuring is a humongous waste of tax payer dollars.

Jack Hearps Jack Hearps 6:40 pm 05 Dec 19

In this way the Corporations can run everything much more easily.

Kerryn Price Kerryn Price 6:47 pm 05 Dec 19

Good. Needed.

Tom Porter Tom Porter 6:47 pm 05 Dec 19

Mates rates.

Annette Lee Annette Lee 6:51 pm 05 Dec 19

You fool Scott Morrison.

Ben Roberts Ben Roberts 7:00 pm 05 Dec 19

This is not an overhaul...this is the Government showing complete disrespect for the Public Service that so often has to cop the public wrath from the Government's incompetence and is there to 'support' it. Shame Morrison shame.

Al Frahri Al Frahri 7:24 pm 05 Dec 19

Great, more lumbering giants like DHS which eats money, digests it with beurocracy and poops out hours on hold and robodebt.

Cass Andra Cass Andra 7:28 pm 05 Dec 19

Everything old is new again so glad I’m not part of it anymore sending Best wishes to those that are

Shirley Hadfield Shirley Hadfield 7:54 pm 05 Dec 19

If amalgamation of departments are to happen can the Australian

Public be assured that they will be more efficient than Centrelink. After dealing with Centrelink for a family member I am convinced their right hand does not know what their left hand is doing!!!

    Raffy Sgroi Raffy Sgroi 9:46 pm 05 Dec 19

    Shirley Hadfield there are too many chiefs and not enough indians in the public sector that’s why we experience all this

    Greg Garth Greg Garth 11:14 pm 05 Dec 19

    Raffy Sgroi LNP reduces service to the public at every opportunity.

    May Mac May Mac 8:48 am 06 Dec 19

    Shirley, me too. I've said the exact same thing.

Mia Cliff Mia Cliff 8:02 pm 05 Dec 19

This Priminister changing things just for the hell of it.

Gareth Rowlands Gareth Rowlands 8:03 pm 05 Dec 19

Fire a heap of public servants only to hire them back for twice the cost as consultants and contractors.

    Raffy Sgroi Raffy Sgroi 9:48 pm 05 Dec 19

    Gareth Rowlands you are not wrong, ACT Government mastered this

Angela Hunter Angela Hunter 8:13 pm 05 Dec 19

The cost of restructuring departments is exorbitant and people don't realise the scope.

All those building and office relocations, signage, letterheads, new security passes, working groups to facilitate the changes/set new mission statements/print the glossy brochures... it's not a simple process and is a colossal undertaking.

When Rudd became PM and my department changed it took 6 mths of solid coordination just to get us into a new office space and rename us.

Meanwhile... newstart remains unchanged and the country is on fire.

Nice to see him focusing on the important stuff.

    Emma Tokley Emma Tokley 6:39 am 06 Dec 19

    Angela Hunter completely agree

    Steph Burgess Steph Burgess 8:38 am 06 Dec 19

    Merry Christmas to all of those now facing that super fun deadline...

Bronwyn Meredith Bronwyn Meredith 8:18 pm 05 Dec 19

Moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. The cuts will cost a fortune in rebranding and re-organising. Australia's burning, we are on the precipice of a climate catastrophe and all Morrison and his venal mob can think of is achieving a budget surplus. They don't give a stuff for anything except winning come next election. Two more years of this lot will do untold damage to this country.

    Doug Wyllie Doug Wyllie 8:46 pm 05 Dec 19

    Bronwyn Clarke you really haven’t read the constitution, have you

    Bronwyn Meredith Bronwyn Meredith 8:58 pm 05 Dec 19

    Doug Wyllie Yes, I have as a matter of fact. I know that local fire brigades aren't covered by Commonwealth heads of power. However, states can refer their powers to the Commonwealth. I'm sure a national response to bushfire management would be something of interest to the states. The Commonwealth can step in in state areas if the states agree. It has done so in the past. Any more comments you wish to make? I studied and practised law. Constitutional law was one of my favourite subjects. What about you?

    Bronwyn Meredith Bronwyn Meredith 8:59 pm 05 Dec 19

    Doug Wyllie I should also add that the Commonwealth can organise a national response to climate change too.

    Helen Thomas Helen Thomas 10:37 pm 06 Dec 19

    Bronwyn Clarke do you think the budget “surplus” would bear scrutiny by honest/unbribable forensic accountants?

    Bronwyn Meredith Bronwyn Meredith 10:48 pm 06 Dec 19

    Helen Thomas Do you mean that this fine upstanding government might cook the books? Why does robodebt and its illegality spring to mind?

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