New wave of cuts at Department of Immigration with executives placed on 'performance notice'

Another wave of high level departures is under way at the Immigration Department as the agency's boss reveals that yet more of his executives have been placed on "performance notice".

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will remain in Belconnen.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will remain in Belconnen. Photo: Melissa Adams

Among about 11 senior executive jumping ship between the middle and the the end of May is understood to be the key defection of chief information officer Matt Yannopoulos, the man who had been given the huge job of combining Immigration's systems with those of its new merger partner Customs.

Departmental Secretary Michael Pezzullo told Senate Estimates this week that departing executives had told him they simply did not fit in with Immigration's new direction under the Abbott government.

Others had been put on "formal performance notice" while an appraisal process, designed to gauge suitability for ongoing employment, was still under way.

It is not suggested that Mr Yannopoulos has been placed on performance notice or has said he does not fit in with the department.


Mr Pezzullo confirmed that there had been 15 transfers to other departments by executives since  he took on the job in October and another three senior bureaucrats had retired. 

Sources close to the portfolio confirmed that Mr Yannopolous was among a group of assistant secretaries and first assistant secretaries who would set sail from Immigration in the coming days, with five of them understood to have been offered asylum under their old boss Martin Bowles at the Health Department.

The moves come as a new batch of senior executive recruits  join Immigration's ranks, many of whom have been drafted in from the Defence Department.

In front of Senate Estimates on Tuesday, Mr Pezullo stated that some of his departing executives did not want to work in the department any more.

"Some people might have decided, for their own reasons – perhaps their own personal values – that they might not feel comfortable working at an agency that, for instance, has a border force component that will be armed," he told the cross-party committee .

Mr Pezzullo said that a number of his veteran senior bureaucrats had told him during "very sensitive" discussions that the Immigration Department they had joined was different to the one that was emerging under the reform now under way and that it was time for them to go.

"That has been perfectly respected and supported," he said.

Mr Pezzullo also told the committee that his department would have no more places for dabblers, or generalist public servants,  and needed specialist operators for some of the new tasks it must undertake.

"Put simply, we cannot afford to have on our books generalists who have dabbled in critical functions such as intelligence, investigations, international policy and engagement, strategic policy and planning, and operational planning and management," he said.

In response to questions on Wednesday from The Canberra Times, an Immigration spokeswoman said recruitment was under way to fill gaps in the executive ranks.

"Recruitment processes have been undertaken to replace specialist skills where gaps existed, providing an opportunity to refresh the leadership cohort and renew the focus required to support the new department," she said.

"We will recruit officers who have significant professional experience and qualifications in these and other fields and retrain and develop our existing staff."


The Canberra Times reported on Thursday, May 28, that a number of senior executives were leaving the Immigration Department, while others had been placed on "performance notice". The article also stated that Chief Information Officer Matt Yannopoulos was among the departing senior executives. There is no suggestion that Mr Yannopoulos was on "performance notice" or that he said that he did not fit in at the department. He will leave Immigration in mid-July, a departmental spokesman said on Thursday, and not in the coming days, as reported. 


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