New Australian Government shakes up public service | Pacific Beat

New Australian Government shakes up public service

New Australian Government shakes up public service

Updated 18 September 2013, 16:49 AEST

Tony Abbott has been sworn in as Australia's 28th Prime Minister today, 10 days after a decisive election victory.

Just moments after that Mr Abbott signed an executive order launching an extensive re-structure of government departments and sacking three department heads.

The swearing-in was also Mr Abbott's deadline to begin Operation Sovereign Borders, his proposal to deter people smugglers and the repeal of Australia's carbon tax.

Presenter: Campbell Cooney

Speaker: Canberra Correspondent Karen Barlow

BARLOW: I guess what happens you officially swear in the Prime Minister and then the Prime Minister can get down to work. So Tony Abbott took the oath of allegiance and then went behind closed door with the Governor-General Quentin Bryce and we don't know exactly what happened there, no cameras certainly, but it soon became apparent that executive orders were signed and there was as you say a massive shakeup of the public service.

He quickly outlined his path of instant action I guess and to the cameras we heard what he had planned to do. It's almost a deviation from previous swearing in ceremonies. He used the moment to outline his promises for the early days of an Abbott government.

ABBOTT: We are determined to honour our commitments to scrape the carbon tax, to stop the boats, to get the budget under control and to build the roads of the 21st. Century. We will be a problem solving government based on values not ideology.

COONEY: He's certainly making very much the same sort of comments he made very soon after he was got into power. We will stop the boats, scrap the carbon tax. He's very much by the sound of it got his line down pat?

BARLOW: Exactly. We've heard it many times before, but you don't normally do it at a swearing in ceremony.

He also said that he was going to govern for all Australians, including those who didn't vote for the Coalition. He said that he wouldn't forget people that are marginalised, people with disabilities, indigenous people and women, struggling to combine the career and family. He said he would do his best to stop the Coalition from leaving anyone behind. But he also had this promise on how the new government will behave.

ABBOTT: We aim to be a calm, measured, steady and purposeful government that says what it means and does what it says. We hope to be judged by what we have done, rather than by what we have said we would do.

COONEY: And he got straight into it. As we mentioned there, three a fairly massive shakeup, three departmental heads sacked. Who are they and what departments are we talking about?

BARLOW: Ah, so these are Don Russell, Blair Comley and Andrew Metcalfe. Andrew Metcalfe is a former head of the Immigration Department. They're from departments such as Industry and Education.

We're also hearing that the Treasury Secretary, Martin Parkinson, is to stand down next year, an extremely important role and it got a little bit political during the election campaign you might remember when he had the head of Finance stood up to say that they weren't involved in costing the Coalition's policies and that was something that really went against the then Labor government. It was certainly seen as politicising departmental heads, but some of these men who have been forced out are seen as being on the side of the previous government. In a way, this is to be expected, but quite a bit shakeup. And we are also hearing that AusAID - the Australian Overseas Aid and Development Agency is now going to be absorbed into the Department of Foreign Affairs and this the government says aid and diplomacy can be more closely aligned.

The head of AusAID, Peter Baxter, he's resigned and he's to be replaced in an acting capacity by his deputy. But this is quite a shakeup and a bit of a surprise to the aid sector, although some people are suggesting that we look back to Julie Bishop, the then shadow foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop's debate with Bob Carr at the Lowy Institute early on in the campaign. Certainly the indications were there all along that this was going to happen.

COONEY: Certainly, as well as that I suppose the announcement of that fairly significant cut to the aid budget that was made just two days before the election as well?

BARLOW: Yes. So the aid budget is under extreme pressure. We don't know exactly what this move will mean, how many jobs will go. Certainly, the Public Sector is expecting that there will be a lot of cuts across the board, but here we have the sector for aid under even more pressure. What will it mean even for specific aid programs. So only time will tell with that.

Also one of the announcements today in regards to moves of departments. Customs and Border Control policy will move from the Attorney-General's portfolio to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. This was flagged before, but now we are seeing it in writing. Customs and Border Protection will now report to the Immigration Minister and as we know, he, this is Scott Morrison. He will head off Operation Sovereign Borders. We had the announcement yesterday that there's going to be a promotion in the Defence Department. The Deputy Chief of Army, Angus Campbell, is being promoted and he will head up Operation Sovereign Borders, which is getting underway today.

COONEY: And just one final question for you Karen. You're talking to us from Parliament House. Is it starting to fill up again after I suppose being a little bit vacant for a few weeks?

BARLOW: Yes, it's certainly very, very busy around here at the moment, although we're not getting an opportunity to question anyone about what is actually taking place today.

It's been I guess fairly quiet, a slow media cycle for the new incoming and now apparent government. It is quite a time where you're seeing big changes. This is the new government certainly making its mark from day one. Tony Abbott said he was going to do that. I think it's only going to get busier from here.


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