Australia appoints new public service commissioner

By on 10/05/2023 | Updated on 10/05/2023
Dr Gordon de Brouwer. © Commonwealth of Australia 2022

Gordon de Brouwer has been appointed Australian Public Service commissioner and will start his five-year term on 11 May, the federal government has announced.

The economist, academic and public servant of 35 years will replace Peter Woolcott, who steps down after nearly five years in the role.

De Brouwer served most recently as secretary for public sector reform – a new role created by the Albanese government in June 2022. He was secretary of the environment department from 2013 to 2017, and had previously been associate secretary in the Domestic Policy Group at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), where he advised then prime minister Kevin Rudd and represented Australia’s interests in the G20 – work for which he received the Public Service Medal in 2011. He has also held roles at the Treasury and at the Reserve Bank of Australia.

In his academic career, he was a president of the Institute of Public Administration’s ACT Division, and a professor of economics in the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University (ANU) from 2000 to 2004. He is an adjunct professor at the ANU.

As commissioner, de Brouwer will hold statutory responsibilities for the Senior Executive Service – the highest ranking APS officials – oversee leadership and management development programmes, ensure that agencies uphold the APS values and comply with the Code of Conduct, and work to improve workplace diversity, among other duties.

Glyn Davis, secretary of the PM&C and APS chief said in a statement that de Brouwer had led the APS reform agenda “with skill and commitment” and that his appointment “recognises his decades of experience in public sector policy and administration”.

“As APS commissioner, Dr de Brouwer will continue to lead public sector reform including to build a stronger APS that embodies integrity and stewardship, puts people at the centre of policy and services, acts as a model employer and has the capability to deliver outcomes for the Australian community now and into the future,” he said.

De Brouwer served alongside Davis as a panel member on the independent review of the APS – known as the Thodey Review – in 2019, which made 40 recommendations on changes to the service. These included conducting regular capability reviews to build organisational capacity and accountability; shaking up recruitment and promotion practices with a focus on attracting and retaining officials with diverse views and backgrounds; improving the funding, structure, and management of digital functions across the APS; and using place-based approaches to addressing intergenerational and multi-dimensional disadvantage.

De Brouwer’s appointment comes at a critical juncture for the APS as the government works to implement the ambitious reform agenda led by minister for the public service, Katy Gallagher. She has set out four priorities of the APS reform agenda: integrity; putting people and business at the centre of policy and services; ensuring APS became a model employer; and making sure it had sufficient capacity to deliver.

Read more: Minister vows to revive ‘mothballed’ Australian Public Service reform agenda

National Net Zero Authority to launch in July

Three days after the announcement of de Boruwer’s appointment, the Australian federal government released more details about a new National Net Zero Authority (NNZA), whose responsibility will be to steer Australia’s transition away from fossil fuels.

An interim NNZA is expected to launch on 1 July this year, with a yet-to-be-announced independent chair and advisory board working to refine the agency’s functions and powers. These powers are expected to be legislated in parliament within the next 12 months.  

Energy minister Chris Bowen said the authority would focus on tackling obstacles to green job creation and investment. Its aims will be to re-skill and transition workers in high-polluting sectors to greener alternatives; coordinate programmes and policies across government to support the emergence of clean energy industries in regions and communities; and to connect both foreign and domestic companies and investors with net zero opportunities.

In July last year, shortly after Labor ousted the Liberal-National Coalition in the federal election, the new government led by prime minister Anthony Albanese created a new environment ‘super ministry’, merging two departments to form the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

Read more: Uncapped remote working on the cards for Australian public servants

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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