Kevin Rudd shows with the structure of his new government that he has a good understanding of how bureaucrats think and work and has avoided the temptation of pulling departments apart and reassembling them in new ways. By keeping most departmental structures intact he has avoided the disruption which normally accompanies a new political party taking over.

Instead of spending the next few months scheming about how to preserve their own prestige and power, the nation’s top public servants will be able to get on with the job of implementing Labor policies.

Nothing better illustrates this cautious approach of a man who obviously learned from his own experience as a public servant both in Canberra and Brisbane than the deferring of a decision on setting up the promised new Department of Homeland Security. Prime Minister Rudd has quietly pushed this off into the future as he gives himself time to consider whether this Labor policy was in fact a wise one. A betting man would say it will become one of the first of the non-core policies of his government but the country will be none the worse off for that.

The one major change in administration is the joining together of Education and Industrial Relations into one super ministry under Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The ministerial job of running it will surely be huge but Ms Gillard will have others ministers to assist her and the two public service halves probably can continue to operate as though they are separate departments.

Environmental matters similarly will assume an increased importance and the division here of responsibilities between the Department of the Environment and specialist sections within the Prime Minister’s department will continue. There is the potential for friction down the track between Peter Garrett as Environment Minister and Penny Wong in control of Climate Change matters but it is apparent that Mr Rudd sees himself having a major role in this area which should keep rivalries under control.

If things do get difficult you can be sure that it is the Cabinet Secretary and Special Minister of State John Faulkner who will be given the task of sorting them out. Senator Faulkner will not have much of a day-to-day administrative role to concern him and thus plenty of time to look after the new Cabinet Implementation Unit with its role of ensuring that Cabinet decisions actually are carried out.

Faulkner, of whom Rudd said this afternoon “I value his experience, I value his safe hands”, is clearly going to be a key person in this new Team Rudd.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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