Department with most name changes? That title goes to Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
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Department with most name changes? That title goes to Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has had more name changes than P Diddy.

With Malcolm Turnbull's ascendancy in the past fortnight came a new focus on "innovation" and an update of the name from simply "Department of Industry", prompting someone, somewhere in the federal bureaucracy to work out how to wrap extra letters around the department's logo.

Simpler times: The Department of Industry has had yet another name change.

Simpler times: The Department of Industry has had yet another name change.

It is an organisation that, for some reason, always gets targeted for a tweaking of the moniker.

Perhaps it is because of where the organisation sits in the hierarchy that makes it easier to play with. It would be harder to tack another word on the back of Treasury, for instance.

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"It does get a bit ridiculous, a nine-letter name for a department," Don Russell, the then-head of the department, said.

"It does get a bit ridiculous, a nine-letter name for a department," Don Russell, the then-head of the department, said.

The history of this organisation's name is long and confusing.

In 2013 it was thought the name of the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education was not long enough. Its name was then changed to become the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

People did actually speak this out, somehow, when they answered the phone.

The fearsome-looking acronym DIICSRTE was abolished six months later when Tony Abbott became prime minister and renamed it the Department of Industry.

Don Russell, the head of the department at the time, even had a crack about the name when he left the job.

"We have a tradition in Australia of mentioning all the responsibilities in department's names, largely for benefit of stakeholders. But it does get a bit ridiculous, a nine-letter name for a department," Dr Russell said.

The Parliamentary Library has confirmed the Industry Department has had the most name changes historically, "many of which have arisen from modest changes in functions," one 1999 research paper says.

At various times it was known as the Secondary Industry Department (1972-74), "which was an upgrade of the Office of Secondary Industry located in the Department of Trade and Industry (1964-72)".

It was also the Manufacturing Industry Department (1974-75), "an amalgamation of the Department of Secondary Industry and the residual parts of Supply not incorporated in the amalgamated Department of Defence."

Into the mid-1980s it was the Department of Industry and Commerce, whose functions varied during its life.

There are too many other names to mention but they can be read by clicking here.

The list makes American rapper P Diddy's various iterations - Puff Daddy, Puffy, Diddy and Sean John Coombs - seem rather easy to keep track of.

Phillip Thomson is a Public Service Reporter at The Canberra Times.