In Canberra, public servants have been wondering whether the reshuffle will lead to a significant redistribution of portfolios. Particular attention has centred on the fate of Julia Gillard’s former department, DEEWR, and Anthony Albanese’s infrastructure department.
On Sunday night, DEEWR head Lisa Paul sent around an email confirming DEEWR would remain together despite serving now Chris Evans and Peter Garrett. Garrett, Paul noted, “is a former member of Australian band Midnight Oil,” an interesting piece of trivia that most people wouldn’t have been aware of.
Yesterday’s Administrative Arrangements Order confirm that the infrastructure department — which despite numerous name changes has essentially been in its current form since John Howard slashed regional programs and dumped them into John Sharp’s transport department in 1996 — would be split into two, with infrastructure and transport remaining under secretary Mike Mrdak, and a new department of regional Australia, regional development and local government for Simon Crean, within the Prime Minister’s portfolio. The new department will take territories along with it, such as sport and the arts, one of those peculiar functions of government that regularly get shunted around Canberra.
Last night, PM&C head Terry Moran announced that PM&C deputy secretary Glenys Beauchamp would be acting head of the new department. Beauchamp has a strong background in social policy and service delivery portfolios such as families and health.
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PM&C associate secretary Paul Grimes will also act in place of environment secretary Robyn Kruk, who has had to take extended sick leave. Environment has been renamed and expanded to become sustainability, environment, water, population and communities under Tony Burke. Under Kruk, environment was Ground Zero for the worst stuff-ups of the Rudd era — the Green loans program and the poor verification processes that saw the home insulation program taken over by shonks. However, Crikey understands that Kruk (whom it was revealed yesterday obtained a $370,000 payout in the wake of the replacement of Morris Iemma as NSW Premier) is viewed within government as having done much to overhaul the department’s internal processes in the wake of the disasters. But Greg Combet’s department of climate change and water will retain responsibility for “household climate action” — and one of its roles will continue to be “design and implementation of emissions trading”, despite the rhetorical shift to a carbon price.
Beyond some renaming of departments — Canberra’s printing industry would be lost without the regular demands for new letterhead that stem from public service restructurings — that was it for the public service, despite speculation that there’d be a more substantial restructuring. Now there’s just the question of bureaucrats settling in with their new masters. There’s a rumour that up to five diplomats immediately resigned on Saturday upon hearing Kevin Rudd was heading their way (DFAT declined to comment “on staff matters”). Such stories can take on a life of their own in Canberra, but a Gillard government promises to be less stressful — and less pointlessly stressful — than a second Rudd government would have been.