Axed public servants head south

Axed public servants head south

Adelaide is emerging as the safe haven of choice for senior Commonwealth bureaucrats sacked by the federal government.

The South Australian government has hired high-profile Australian Public Service casualties Mike Deegan and Don Russell for senior roles in the state’s bureaucracy.

Mr Russell, axed as head of the Industry Department on the first day of the Abbott government in September last year, starts his new job on Monday as chief executive of South Australia’s newly formed Department of State Development.

Mr Deegan, who will lead the state government’s transport and infrastructure bureaucracy, was head of Infrastructure Australia until he was put on paid leave in February and then his role was scrapped.

Dr Russell was sacked along with Agriculture secretary Andrew Metcalfe and Blair Comley from Resources, Energy and Tourism on September 18, the day the Abbott government was sworn in.


On the same day, remembered as the ''night of the short knives'', the head of AusAID, Peter Baxter, went on ''extended leave'' just hours before the abolition of his agency was made public, and Treasury chief Martin Parkinson agreed to step down in mid-2015.

True to his reputation as a public sector thinker, Dr Russell was looking at the big picture aspects of his new job when he spoke on Thursday.

''An interesting thing about the states is that even though they don’t have financial responsibility, they are actually responsible for getting things done,'' he said.

''Federation has this strange divide where the Commonwealth has the money but not the direct responsibility, whereas the states have the responsibility but not access to the money.

''That’s an interesting issue to wrestle with and over time I’ve become more and more of a believer in competitive federalism. And this is an opportunity to work that through.''