Cabinet secretary returns to government under new Australian PM

By on 22/10/2018
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has recruited former John Howard adviser as his cabinet secretary (Image courtesy: Australian Embassy Jakarta/flickr)

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has brought Peter Conran, an adviser to former prime minister John Howard, back into government as his new cabinet secretary.

Conran worked for Howard between 2001 and 2007 as a senior adviser, then cabinet secretary and head of the cabinet policy unit.

The prime minister’s press team confirmed the appointment to Global Government Forum after it was reported in The Australian.

Speaking to the newspaper, Morrison said: “Peter brings a depth of experience to the government (and) our cabinet process, and an ­intimate knowledge of the workings of the states and territories that will also benefit COAG. I was very pleased he ­accepted our offer to return to Canberra and be part of our team.”

Conran left the federal government in 2007 after a general election saw Labor’s Kevin Rudd replace Howard as prime minister.

In 2009, he was appointed as director general at Western Australia’s Department of the Premier and Cabinet. However, he stepped down in 2016, stating that that he wanted to spend more time with his family following health issues.

Earlier in his career, Conran held chief executive and senior roles at the Department of Law and the Department of the chief minister, in the Northern Territory.

He qualified as a legal practitioner of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory and served as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland.

The role of cabinet secretary was created in 2007 by Rudd as a ministerial position within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The role was broadened in 2015, when prime minister Malcolm Turnbull included it in cabinet. However, he abolished the post and returned its functions to the prime minister’s office last year.

Conran’s appointment is the second senior civil service return for a former member of Howard’s prime ministerial team.

On taking office in August, Morrison appointed former mining executive John Kunkel as his chief of staff. Kunkel spent time as a senior adviser in Howard’s cabinet policy unit, working alongside Conran.

About Colin Marrs

Colin Marrs is a journalist specialising in local and national government, as well as architecture and the built environment. Colin previously worked as digital content editor at Campaign, the advertising industry "bible".

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