The prime minister Scott Morrison has announced a major shake-up of the public service that will see four departments abolished, five secretaries sacked and responsibility for emissions reductions removed from the department of environment.
Under the changes outlined by Morrison on Thursday, 18 government departments will be reduced to 14, with the prime minister saying the move would see “better services on the ground”.
He said the changes were not a savings measure, and there were no job losses expected. There will also be no changes to the ministry.
“Department secretaries and others will undertake the normal things that they do in managing their budgets,” Morrison said, adding he always expected “maximum efficiencies”.
“[But] those who were previously performing functions in the areas that I have talked about in other departments will now perform those functions in new departments.”
The new Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources will consolidate the current functions of the Industry department, along with the energy functions from the current Department of the Environment and Energy.
Morrison said this would also include responsibility for emissions reduction, but denied decoupling it from the environment department was an ideological move.
“I have never been a fan of the ideology of it, I am interested in the science of it and the practicality of it and the achievement of the targets the government has set,” he said.
“And so much of that is engaged in how you work with industry, and how you ensure you get energy prices down and how you keep a balance between those policies and our economy.
“We are tackling action on climate change and we are getting results on emissions reduction.”
Morrison said the emissions were currently lower than when the Coalition came to government, but the latest figures show Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
Environment functions from the current Department of the Environment and Energy will now be moved to a new Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
It is the fourth machinery of government change for the vexed policy area of emissions reduction since the Department of Climate Change was established in 2007.
Following the 2010 election, former prime minister Julia Gillard bolstered the department by bringing energy into the new Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
This was abolished by the Abbott government in 2013, with its functions split between the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.
Malcolm Turnbull, after narrowly winning the 2016 election, established the Department of Environment and Energy, which was in place while the Coalition oversaw development of the national energy guarantee.
Under the changes outlined by Morrison, a new department of Education, Skills and Employment will consolidate the current departments of education and employment, while the a new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications will consolidate the current Department of Infrastructure and the 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 Department of Social Services.
Five departmental secretaries will be sacked as a result of the shake-up, with Kerri Hartland, Renée Leon, Mike Mrdak, Daryl Quinlivan and Heather Smith not continuing in their roles.
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.
Morrison has also appointed Andrew Metcalfe, who was head of the immigration department from 2005 to 2012, as secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
“Having fewer departments will allow us to bust bureaucratic congestion, improve decision-making and ultimately deliver better services for the Australian people,” Morrison said.
“This is about better services on the ground, it’s about getting more focus on Australians and delivering policy, it’s about making sure that I keep my promises to the Australian people.”
The Labor deputy leader Richard Marles urged the prime minister to ensure “stability within the public service”.
“I think it’s really important, particularly at this time, given all the challenges that we’re facing, that the government is managing the public service in a way which maintains stability and ultimately maintains morale,” Marles told Sky news.