Former Liberal staffers ‘parachuted’ into top Treasury positions, says Labor | Australia news


Labor has raised concerns about the Turnbull government’s decision to appoint former political staffers to key bureaucratic roles in proximity to the federal election expected either later this year, or in the first half of 2019.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said on Friday: “Let’s get this right, Scott Morrison’s former chief-of-staff and Mathias Cormann’s former chief-of-staff have been parachuted into secretary and deputy secretary of treasury roles.”

“The next budget document the treasury and finance produces could be the independent pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook – and Scott Morrison appoints two prominent Liberal party staffers into key, sensitive treasury roles,” Bowen said.

Bowen also objected to the government’s decision on Friday to appoint another former Liberal staffer to be chair of the Productivity Commission, which is an independent economic adviser to the commonwealth.

This week the government appointed Phil Gaetjens, a long-serving Liberal party staffer, to head the treasury, replacing the incumbent secretary, John Fraser, who announced his intention to move on.

Fraser was appointed to the post by then treasurer Joe Hockey after Tony Abbott sought the dismissal of Martin Parkinson after coming to office in 2013. Parkinson was restored to the bureaucracy by Malcolm Turnbull after he won the Liberal party leadership and now heads the prime minister’s department.

Simon Atkinson, who worked for Cormann in the finance portfolio, has been appointed to treasury as a deputy secretary. Morrison also appointed Michael Brennan, a former staffer to the Liberal senator Nick Minchin, the new chair of the productivity commission.

It is common in Canberra for federal officials to work for stints in ministerial offices before returning to the bureaucracy, and both sides of politics have made political appointments to the public service.

But Bowen has been raising objections for months that Morrison is politicising the treasury.

In May the shadow treasurer declared Morrison was intent on turning the prestigious commonwealth agency into a “political battering ram”.

Bowen said if Labor won the next federal election, he intended to pursue a “productive, professional working relationship with the treasury, and I will not be engaging in the politicisation of the treasury like this treasurer has – used it as a crutch to support government policies”.



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