Have many political staffers made the leap into the bureaucracy? Crikey
is keen to explores the move of Michael Coutts-Trotter and other
like him:

Michael Coutts-Trotter’s $300,000 public service gig

Michael Coutts-Trotter, chief of staff to NSW Treasurer Michael Egan
for most of the last eight years, was today announced as the new
Director General of the Department of Commerce in the NSW Government.
The job attracts a salary of around 300k. Reporting to Minister John
Della Bosca, MCT replaces the outgoing Kate McKenzie who took on a big
job with Telstra a short time ago after 15 months in the Commerce job.

The Department of Commerce is a mixed bag of regulators from Fair
Trading (killer toys and dodgy real estate agents), a gaggle of lame
duck government businesses like Q-stores (government stationery) and
Statefleet (government cars) and struggling government procurement and
asset management functions. There’s also the issue of the Smartbuy, an
ambitious leading edge IT procurement project, which has cost millions
and produced little so far.

Seems like MCT is going to need all his considerable political,
financial and media skills in his new role. And after eight years with
Treasurer Egan, no reason to think his boss may be considering
retirement. MCT is married to the rising Labor member for Sydney Tanya
Plibersek so they are emerging as quite a Labor power couple.

CRIKEY: Are there many other Carr Government political staffers who
have parachuted into top-level public service jobs? Does the package
sound about right, or a little on the high side? What would the process
have been around such an appointment?

We asked our 153 subscribers and alertees with the NSW Government what
they thought of this move and here are a couple of responses:

A farewell drinks attendee writes:

Much joy and frivolity at the staff bar in State Parliament last night
with farewell drinks for MCT. The regal Tanya Plibersek was in
attendance – don’t think they had an open tab, shouting Labor hacks in
attendance even though they can well and truly afford it with combined
income of 430,000K. Maybe farewell drinks for Egan will follow shortly
as MCT is the most loyal staffer has been well and truly looked after
by the Treasurer. Much lamenting in Labor circles of the loss of the
only person that could make Egan see political sense. Saint Carmel
Tebutt was there, as well as Egan, Col Gellatly from Premiers and the
Premier’s chief spinner Walt Secord and his numerous underlings.

MCT was generally well liked and respected and much admiration for his
personal achievements despite serious personal troubles as a young
adult. However, is he up to the task as DG of a major Department like
Commerce? His close relationship with Della Bosca might not always
result in the best deal for the State. This is classic jobs for the
boys – interesting to see terms of the contract and if they extend past
2007 as he would not be expected to survive the election of a Brogden
Government.

Another public servant writes:

One would expect there to be an open selection process…but haven’t
followed events since Kate’s departure. But on the size of package, SES
Level 7 remuneration ranges from $247,101 to 309,900 while Level 8
ranges from $309,901 to $358,050. From the Commerce dept annual report
you’ll see Kate was a Level 8.

Another writes:

I had dealings with Michael when I worked with NSW Treasury, between 5
& 7 years ago. At that stage he was a fairly senior officer in the
Treasurer’s Office. I always found him polite, professional and
intelligent – a young go-getter who obviously got there!

And another writes:

Kate McKenzie was on about $320K’s as reported by Paola Totaro in a
Sydney Morning Herald piece a few months ago when she profiled the
alleged movers and shakers in the NSW Public Service. Therefore
Coutts-Trotter is probably going to be getting about the same. Head of
Premier’s Department Col Gellatly would have been the convenor of the
selection panel. Usually a Departmental head or two make up the
remainder of the panel.

MCT is being replaced in Egan’s office as Chief of Staff by Simon (I
think) Miller who has been working in Bob Carr’s office looking after
finance advice. Miller is married to Naomi Miller who works as a Policy
Adviser to Morris Iemma – the Minister for Health.


Keep the feedback coming to [email protected] crikey.com.au