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Where the department secretary chips are falling

While all eyes have been on the burning question – answered on Wednesday in spades by new prime minister Anthony – of who will be who in the new Australian Public Service zoo, down in the weeds of departments many staff are busy readying the new machinery of government (MOG) changes for July 1.

We won’t repeat what is already reported about the shakeup of secretaries except to say they are already being received well in the nation’s capital, especially the two-year appointment of Gordon de Brower as secretary for Public Sector Reform, showing the government means what it says about reinvigorating the APS.

De Brouwer retired of his own volition a while back, but if he was going to be dubbed Lazarus with a bypass he will be pipped at the post by the appointment of the colorful character (in a good way), Jim Bettwho has worked in various jurisdictions, as the new Infrastructure secretary, replacing former coalition staffer Simon Atkinson, who did not survive the change of government.

Atkinson’s departure and that of Katherine Campbell (from Foreign Affairs to somewhere in AUKUS-related in Defence), not to mention the exit of Phil Gaetjens from Prime Minister and Cabinet, were always on the cards. Whether they amount to a night of the short knives or a case of taking revolvers into the library will no doubt be revealed as time goes on.

Betts, at the helm of the (renamed) Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, will also be in the unique multi-faceted position of answering to seven different ministers, four of them in cabinet, the titular minister being catherine king. Some other portfolios have as many ministerial roles, but with some ministers serving in two.

To recap, the departments being MOGGED, the most are the current Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (secretary Andrew Metcalfe) and the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (secretary Michelle Bruniges), which are both being split, but the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources is also losing a big chunk, along with the secretary David Fredericks, who will move to the new Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water; his replacement of him has not yet been revealed.

Agriculture will become the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. A media spokesperson said the new organizational charts for it and Climate Change would be released after July 1 – not as helpful as we’d hoped. While the Administrative Arrangement Order lists all relevant legislation, it doesn’t go to department structures, so it’s easy to get it wrong from the outside.

Also unclear is exactly what the new acronym will be – DCCEEW, perhaps. Acronyms are the lifeblood of bureaucracies, but try saying this one without sounding like Rowan Atkinson.

Anyway, apologies if we get anything wrong, but we did ask.

So, let’s dive down into the weeds.

Agriculture will lose to Climate Change at least three of the four divisions currently belonging to the water, climate adaptation, natural disasters and Antarctic group that is headed by deputy secretary Lyn O’Connell:water; climate adaptation and resilience; and the Australian Antarctic Division. The drought and farm resilience division will presumably stay.

Also expected to move is the entire environment and heritage group run by deputy secretary Chris Locke. This has six divisions: environmental approvals; biodiversity conservation; heritage, reef and ocean division; the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office; Parks Australia; and parks policy.

Then there is the major environmental reforms group, headed by acting deputy secretary James Tregurtha. This has two divisions: environmental protection reform and environment protection. Both will surely move across.

Last, the biosecurity and compliance group…

…headed by deputy secretary Andrew Tongue, has the Office of Water Compliance. Will that move? Presumably.

Associated portfolio agencies to move are the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Climate Service, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the Regional Investment Corporation, the Sydney Harbor Federation Trust, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Director of National Parks; don’t know about the Regional Investment Corporation.

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources is set to become the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, losing all of its energy functions to Climate Change. Our media inquiry only elicited the – er – bleeding obvious response that the department was working through the changes.

deputy secretary Jo Evans heads three divisions, of which two will surely move: international climate and technology; and climate change. The critical minerals and major projects division would, presumably, stay put.

deputy secretary Sean Sullivan heads four divisions, of which at least two – electricity and energy – appear destined to move, while at least parts of the onshore resources division and the offshore resources and liquid fuels division relating to gas and liquid fuels would also likely go. It is unclear as to which deputy secretary (or both) would go with them.

Associated Industry portfolio agencies to move to the Climate Change portfolio include the Australian Institute of Marine Science; the Climate Change Authority; the Clean Energy Regulator; the Clean Energy Finance Corporation; the Australian Renewable Energy Agency; Snowy Hydro Limited; the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority; and the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner.

The split of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment on July 1 is hardly its first rodeo, having been merged and demerged more often than most departments. Thanks to its media team for clarifying the moves – very helpful.

The three education groups, early childhood and childcare, under deputy secretary brenton philp; schools and youth, under Ross Baxter; and higher education, research and international under Tony Cook will stay with the new Department of Education.

Skills and training, under nadine williamsand employment and workforce, under Nathan Smythas well as the National Skills Commission, move to the reborn Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, whose secretary will be Natalie James, who among other things was a former chief counsel in an earlier version of the department, and Fair Work ombudsman. Arrangements for corporate and enabling services (under deputy secretary Marcus Marković), including shared services, are still a work in progress.

The new Employment department will also take the industrial relations group (deputy secretary Martin Hehir) from the Attorney-General’s department, as well as the Pacific Australia Labor Mobility (PALM) scheme from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In turn, Attorney-General’s (secretary Catherine Jones) is also gaining some functions from the Home Affairs portfolio, with the move of the protective security services and criminal law enforcement policy functions to the department, and the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (Austrac), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (still the Australian Crime Commission for legal purposes) and the Office of the Special Investigator into the portfolio.

Home Affairs is gaining the natural disaster response and mitigation function, including the National Recovery and Resilience Agency, from the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. Thanks also to Home Affairs for clarifying its moves.

There are more MOG moves here and there, of course, but those are the most prominent.

Not all secretarial appointments will begin on July 1 along with the MOG changes. Betts and James will both join their departments on July 11 and Jenny Wilkinson (Finance) on August 9 when Rosemary Huxtable retires.

Along with the appointments of Glyn Davis to PM&C, Jan Adams at Foreign Affairs, de Brouwer, Fredericks and the new unnamed Industry secretary, it means the latest round of musical chairs in the secretaries’ board amounts to eight chairs being filled: six new secretaries and two recycled ones. Onwards and upwards, then, to the new era of 16 portfolio departments and one extra secretary, so 17 secretaries altogether.

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