News

Agriculture, Environment Departments to merge in Federal shake up

James Nason, 05/12/2019

A MAJOR restructure of the Australian public service today has been announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that will see the number of Federal Departments reduce from 18 to 14.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The Departments of Agriculture and Environment will be merged to create the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

The new mega department will consolidate the current Department of Agriculture and the environment functions from the current Department of the Environment and Energy.

The reform is a merging of departmental resources, not portfolios.

From a portfolio perspective each minister will maintain their own policy objectives, with Bridget McKenzie to remain as Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud as Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, and Sussan Ley as Minister for the Environment.

Department of Agriculture head Daryl Quinlivan is one of five Departmental Secretaries whose positions will disappear when the new structure takes effect from February 1, 2020.

From that date Andrew Metcalfe AO will take up the position of Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

EY’s independent review team leader Andrew Metcalfe outlines findings from yesterday’s second issues paper

Mr Metcalfe was Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship from 2005 to 2012 and Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in 2013. Since then he has been a partner at EY (Ernst and Young).

Mr Morrison said Mr Metcalfe will bring considerable public policy leadership experience to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and to the Secretaries Board.

The remit of the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency will also be expanded to include drought under the changes.

The Hon Shane Stone AC QC has been appointed to lead the new National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency, providing national leadership and a whole-of-government response to support our farmers and regional communities as they respond to, and recover from, the drought and the north Queensland flood from earlier this year.

The Agency will sit within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and report to the Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, David Littleproud MP.

Mr Morrison said the reforms are designed to ensure the services that Australians rely on are delivered more efficiently and effectively.

In a joint statement Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie and Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the changes will strengthen the Government’s ability to deliver effective policy outcomes across agriculture, water and the environment for all Australians.

“Environment, water and agriculture are inextricably linked across regional and rural Australia and metropolitan centres,” their statement said.

“Bringing together the environment and agriculture departments will provide greater synergies to the policies and programs that underpin regional Australia and our agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries.

“Managing our natural environment, our water, our land, our soils and air together makes sense.

“Farmers and our agricultural industries are at the frontline of Australia’s conservation and environmental efforts.

“We look forward to working even more closely together to deliver a practical environmental agenda that delivers for our farmers, who manage more than 50 per cent of Australia’s land mass and which supports the Morrison Government’s national environmental agenda.”

Daryl Qunlivan

Ms McKenzie and Mr Littleproud said Agriculture Department Secretary Daryl Quinlivan had been a dedicated and utterly professional public servant, and thanked him for his many years of outstanding leadership and tremendous policy advice.

“We look forward to working with the new Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, Andrew Metcalfe.”

Further explaining the changes, Mr Morrison told the media today that he had talked for some time about his desire to have a “very practical environmental agenda”.

“And there is no section of our country that relies more on our environment than our agricultural sector.

“Our water policy, all of this is so intrinsically linked by how we address the environmental challenges that we have, not just as a country, but as a globe. And by integrating, I believe, the excellent scientific and other work that is done by the Department of Environment and the programs that they have and connecting that with the work that has been done in water and agricultural policy.

“And a great example of that, its national soils day. The work that needs to be done to enrich and enhance our soils and what that means for the productivity of our agricultural sector, emissions reduction and all of these issues, I think combined together, very importantly, how we manage our land and our water and our sea and the resources that are there. From an environmental perspective impacts so much on our agricultural prospects.”

Mr Morrison said it was not uncommon for departments to have multiple ministers. “They have multiple ministers now,” he told a press conference after announcing the changes. “And so the officials that work in these departments respond to the minister that is responsible for those portfolio issues. So who’s the senior minister on environment? Well, it’s the Minister for the Environment. Who’s the senior minister on agriculture? It’s the Minister for Agriculture. It should be very plain.”

The Red Meat Advisory Council has urged a new approach to agri-food policy for the new mega department.

It suggests early “off the blocks” policy initiatives should include:

  • An industry-government working group with the relevant government emissions, environment and agriculture experts to develop a joint policy framework for Australian red meat’s Carbon Neutral 2030 aspiration;
  • A project specifically examining eco-services and natural capital solutions for Australia’s primary producers as outlined in Red Meat 2030 and by Climate Proofing Australia
  • A whole-of-government Roundtable for key Secretaries responsible for agri-food policy and services including Foreign Affairs and Trade; Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications; Industry, Science, Energy + Resources and DEWA to develop a strategic policy agenda for pre-and-post farm gate Australian food industries to contribute to the Prime Minister’s $100 billion agenda

Don Mackay, RMAC.

“We hope a new mega-department for agri-food is focused on improving and expanding frontline services in the face of many global challenges, and with this will come increased investment and recognition from Treasury,” Independent Chair of RMAC, Don Mackay said.

“As an industry that is 60 per cent export focused it is critical that the agricultural portfolio has the resources and distinction it needs for our exporters to deliver to over 100 global destinations; but also protect our food businesses from incoming biosecurity incursions.”

Mr Mackay thanked Mr Quinlivan for his “outstanding contribution and continued engagement with our industry as a regulator and policy leader”. He said the sector looked forward to working with Mr Metcalfe on implementing the Red Meat 2030 plan and progressing consideration of the Red Meat MoU White Paper from February 2020.

Other changes announced by Mr Morrison this morning, to take effect on 1 February 2020, include:

The creation of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, which will consolidate:

  • the current Department of Education; and
  • the current Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.

The creation of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, which will consolidate:

  • the current Department of Industry, Innovation and Science;
  • energy functions from the current Department of the Environment and Energy; and
  • small business functions from the current Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.

The creation of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, which will consolidate:

  • the current Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development; and
  • the current Department of Communications and the Arts.

The Department known as Services Australia (formerly known as the Department of Human Services) will be established as a new Executive Agency, within the Social Services Department.

Ten departments remain unchanged.

In addition to Mr Quinlivan, Departmental Secretaries who will not continue to hold office in the new structure when it takes effect on 1 February 2020 are Kerri Hartland (who is currently secretary of the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business); Renée Leon PSM (Public Service Medal) (currently heading the Department of Human Services); Mike Mrdak AO (Communications and the Arts) and Dr Heather Smith PSM (Industry, Innovation and Science).

“Each of these senior officials has served their country with dedication, commitment and a deep sense of public service over many years, and their advice, achievements and leadership have been valued by governments past and present,” Mr Morrison said.

“On behalf of the Government and all Australians, I thank Ms Hartland, Ms Leon, Mr Mrdak, Mr Quinlivan and Dr Smith for everything they have done to advance Australia’s interests, and for their service, and I wish them all the best in their future endeavours.”

David Fredericks, currently the Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Energy, will move to be Secretary of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

The new structure of departments and Secretaries, on 1 February 2020, will be:

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO
Attorney-General’s Department Mr Chris Moraitis PSM
Department of Defence Mr Greg Moriarty
Department of Education, Skills and Employment Dr Michelle Bruniges AM
Department of Finance Ms Rosemary Huxtable PSM
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ms Frances Adamson
Department of Health Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM
Department of Home Affairs Mr Michael Pezzullo
Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Mr David Fredericks
Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications Mr Simon Atkinson
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Mr Philip Gaetjens
Department of Social Services Ms Kathryn Campbell AO CSC
Department of the Treasury Dr Steven Kennedy PSM
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Ms Liz Cosson AM CSC

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Comments

  1. Albert Enzerink, 06/12/2019

    Managing all these Ministers trying to throw their weight around in these new portfolios will be a challenge for the PM.

  2. Michael VAIL, 05/12/2019

    Seems a sensible structure, and more manageable along functional lines

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