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Another senior mandarin steps aside

by Pallavi Singhal and Chris Huckstepp •
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The Prime Minister promised pre-election that there will be no “blood bath of public servants” once elected. One year in, there has nonetheless been a significant changing of the guard, particularly in the key ‘central agencies’ of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury, Foreign Affairs and Trade and Attorney General. 

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Ian Watts is the latest to move on since the September 2013 election. Other changes at the top of the Australian Public Service involve:

  • Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson: Parkinson will leave the position in December 2014, and while a replacement has not been officially announced investment banker John Fraser is tipped for the position. Fraser was Deputy Secretary at Treasury under Paul Keating and has held executive positions at Swiss financial services company, UBS. 
  • Attorney-General’s Department Secretary Roger Wilkins:  Wilkins resigned in August 2014, and was replaced by Chris Moraitis in September 2014. Between April 2013 and September 2014, Moraitis was Deputy Secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and had a career as a senior diplomat in Papua New Guinea and Europe.
  • Department of Finance Secretary David Tune:  Tune resigned in June 2014 and was replaced by Jane Halton. Halton was previously the Secretary of the Australian Department of Health and was Secretary of the Department of Health and Aging before the machinery of government (MoG) changes made by the new Coalition Government in September 2013. Martin Bowles replaced Halton at Health.
  • Department of Agriculture Secretary Andrew Metcalf:  Metcalf was replaced by Paul Grimes in September 2013. Grimes had been Secretary of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) before the MoG changes in 2013.
  • Department of Industry Secretary Don Russell:  Russell was replaced by Glenys Beauchamp in September 2013. Beauchamp was previously Secretary of the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, Arts and Sport, and prior to that was a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 
  • Secretary of the Department of Energy, Resources and Tourism Blair Comley:  Comley had his contract terminated when the September 2013 MoG changes allocated the Department’s functions to other agencies. Comley is now the Secretary of Premier and Cabinet in NSW.

Michael Thawley, will replace Watts as Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) on 1 December and will commence a five-year term. He was Australian Ambassador to the United States from 2000 to 2005, and served as senior adviser on international relations to former Prime Minister John Howard.

He has also held a number of senior positions at PM&C, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Office of National Assessments.

“Thawley has already provided significant service to Australia and brings a wealth of experience in both the public and private sectors to his appointment,” said Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Watts has been Secretary of PM&C since September 2011. Prior to that, he was Secretary of the Departments of Communications, Finance and Defence.

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