Anthony Albanese is bringing in an outsider, former University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis to head his Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Davis, who is close to former prime minister Kevin Rudd, was speculated on as a possible head of the department in Rudd’s time. In 2008 Davis co-chaired the Rudd government’s Australia 2020 Summit.
Currently Davis is CEO of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Australia’s largest philanthropic trust.
He replaces Phil Gaetjens, who as secretary of the department under Scott Morrison came under criticism for being too political and, in the eyes of some bureaucrats, for not standing up strongly enough for the public service.
Davis was director-general of the Queensland department of premier of cabinet from 1998 to 2002.
He then became vice-chancellor of Griffith University, and in 2005 moved to be vice-chancellor of Melbourne University, a position he held until 2018, driving a major academic restructure. He retains a range of academic connections. His research interest has centred on public policy.
Announcing Davis’ appointment Albanese said he would bring to the role of secretary, “a deep understanding of public policy and will work with my government in bringing about positive change for the Australian people”.
Davis was a member of the Thodey review into the public service.
The Morrison government rejected a number of the more ambitious of that inquiry’s recommendations which would have constrained the hand of government in dealing with the public service.
There will be intense interest within the public service about whether Davis will urge the new government to revisit some of these Thodey recommendations.
Davis delivered the 2010 Boyer Lectures , which were published under the title The Republic of Learning. His appointment has been enthusiastically welcomed by the higher education sector.
Chief executive of Universities Australia Catriona Jackson said: “This is a pivotal appointment at a pivotal moment for Australia and Australians.
"Professor Davis’ extensive and distinguished experience in public policy and deep understanding of the importance of a strong university sector to Australia’s future, is well proven.
"As we emerge from challenging times, we look forward to working with Professor Davis to deliver the productivity gains that highly-skilled people and technological and social advances provide to the economy.”