Australian government appoints top official to lead public sector redesign

By on 29/06/2022 | Updated on 29/06/2022
Australian coat of arms

The Australian government has appointed a senior official to lead a reform programme to grow the capability of the Australian Public Service (APS).

As part of a number of appointments of secretaries in the APS, prime minister Anthony Albanese assigned Dr Gordon de Brouwer the newly-created role of secretary for public sector reform.

Albanese said de Brouwer, who previously served as secretary of the Department of the Environment and Energy, will work with Peter Woolcott, the Australian Public Service Commissioner, and Katy Gallagher, the minister for public service to “lead and implement a wide range of public sector reforms which will support my commitment to place greater value on the public service and to grow its capability”.

de Brouwer’s appointment follows Albanese naming Glyn Davis secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and head of the APS, following his victory in the election on 21 May.

Read more: New secretary of Australia’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet named

de Brouwer served alongside Davis as a panel member on the independent review of the APS in 2019, which made 40 recommendations on changes to the service. These included developing and embedding an inspiring purpose and vision to unite the APS in serving the nation, as well as using place-based approaches to addressing intergenerational and multi-dimensional disadvantage. Finally, it emphasised improving funding, structure, and management of digital functions across the APS.

The review also called on government to build data and digital expertise in government, including through establishing an APS professions model and a learning and development strategy to deepen capability and expertise. It also called for a need to deliver value for money and better outcomes through a new strategic, service-wide approach to using external providers.

Gallagher welcomed his appointment, highlighting that he “brings 35 years of experience in public policy to the role & will design & deliver recommendations to strengthen the public sector”.

Albanese also announced four new secretaries of government departments.

Jim Betts was named the secretary of the department of infrastructure, transport, regional development, communications and the arts, having previously worked in state level roles in both New South Wales and Victorian public services, including as secretary of the NSW department of planning, industry and environment, secretary of the Victorian department of transport, and CEO of infrastructure NSW.

Jan Adams, currently Australia’s ambassador to Japan, will return home to head up the department of foreign affairs and trade. Adams is a senior career officer with the ministry, having also served as ambassador to China, as a senior trade negotiator and as ambassador for climate change. 

Natalie James will be appointed as secretary of the department of employment and workplace relations. Among her previous roles, James served as chief counsel to the department of education, employment and workplace relations, as Australia’s fair work ombudsman.

The final appointment sees Jenny Wilkinson promoted from her role at deputy secretary at the treasury department to secretary of the department of finance. Wilkinson has held positions across several departments and agencies, including running the parliamentary budget office, from July 2017 to January 2020.

Albanese also announced that David Fredericks, the current secretary of the department of industry, science and resources, would move to head up the newly-created department of climate change, energy, the environment and water. An appointment to head up the industry department will be made shortly, the prime minister said.

This department was created as part of Albanese machinery of government changes following his election earlier in June to help “deliver the government’s job-creating climate change and energy agenda and give Australia’s environment the protection it deserves”.

Read more: Australia reorganises departments to reflect new government’s priorities

Australia has also formally adopted more ambitious climate change targets.

As a result of these changes, both Simon Atkinson and Kathryn Campbell will leave their secretary roles. Atkinson has led the department of infrastructure, transport, regional development and communications since 1 February 2020, while Campbell has headed the department of foreign affairs and trade since July 2021.

“I thank them both for their service to the Australian Public Service over many years. They have both brought great professionalism and deep experience to the range of roles they have held, and I wish them both the best,” Albanese said.

Campbell will be taking up a senior defence role related to Australia’s defence pact with the United States and United Kingdom, Albanese said, but there was no detail on Atkinson’s next role.

APS Departments and Secretaries as at 1 July 2022

Department of the Prime Minister and CabinetProf Glyn Davis AC
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and ForestryMr Andrew Metcalfe AO
Attorney-General’s DepartmentMs Katherine Jones PSM
Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and WaterMr David Fredericks PSM
Department of DefenceMr Greg Moriarty
Department of EducationDr Michele Bruniges AM
Department of Employment and Workplace RelationsMs Natalie James [from 11 July 2022]
Department of FinanceMs Jenny Wilkinson PSM [from 9 Aug 2022]
Department of Foreign Affairs and TradeMs Jan Adams AO PSM
Department of Health and Aged CareProf Brendan Murphy AC
Department of Home AffairsMr Michael Pezzullo AO
Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the ArtsMr Jim Betts [from 11 July 2022]
Department of Industry, Science and ResourcesTBC
Department of Social ServicesMr Ray Griggs AO CSC
Department of Veterans’ AffairsMs Elizabeth Cosson AM CSC
Department of the TreasuryDr Steven Kennedy PSM

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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