The Prime Minister announced a sweeping reorganisation of the ranks of Department heads yesterday, with a new generation of Secretaries to take over key portfolios in Canberra.

In one of the biggest non-election shake-ups in decades:

  • Dr Ian Watt moves from Finance to Defence, replacing Nick Warner who moves to head ASIS
  • Dr David Tune is promoted from Associate Secretary at PM&C to replace Watt at Finance
  • Centrelink’s Finn Pratt is to replace the retiring Helen Williams at Human Services
  • Patricia Scott will move from Broadband to become a Productivity Commissioner. She will be replaced by Peter Harris from Victoria
  • Dennis Richardson will replace Michael L’Estrange at Foreign Affairs. L’Estrange will be moved to another Government role as yet unidentified
  • Public Service Commissioner Lynelle Briggs becomes CEO of Medicare and her replacement is as yet unknown.
  • Philippa Godwin will become head of the Child Support Agency.

There have also been a number of key Band 2 and Band 3 appointments in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

This reshuffle represents a major injection of new talent into Secretarial ranks, which now, but for a handful of exceptions, are composed of Rudd appointments.  The highly-regarded David Tune, currently at PM&C, has been recognised with a promotion to the key portfolio of Finance and Deregulation; Ian Watt, who has had the role of Dr No for several years, takes the toughest portfolio of all, Defence, supporting newish Minister John Faulkner, with whom he previously worked when Faulkner was Special Minister of State.

Patricia Scott, who is long rumoured to have had a poor relationship with Stephen Conroy, moves to the PC, where she will head a major inquiry into aged care, and her replacement is Peter Harris. Harris is an energetic and blunt former PM&C official who rose to Deputy Secretary level at the Department of Transport in the early Howard years before moving to Ansett, amid rumours that Max Moore-Wilton had taken a dislike to him.  After the collapse of Ansett he joined the Victorian Public Sector.  His relationship with Conroy will be one to watch.

The departure of veteran Helen Williams also brings an era to a close.  Williams, the first female Secretary back in the 1980s, was one of the few Secretaries to keep her distance from the Howard Government in its last years amid the ongoing politicisation of the Public Service, and lived to tell the tale.   Hopefully she’ll follow Andrew Podger’s lead and commit her experiences to paper.