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Comms Chief To Go As PM Takes Axe To Federal Departments

PM Scott Morrison has unveiled a pre-Christmas purge, slashing the number of federal departments from 18 to 14, and a so-far unrevealed number of departmental officials sent packing.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher apparently retains that title but finds his department being bundled into a new bag of bones dubbed the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (DITRDC) – with Fletcher’s outfit, perhaps pointedly, being listed last.

Fletcher has also lost the services of his well-regarded departmental head Mike Mrdak, pictured, who had been in that role since September 2017, when Malcolm Turnbull was PM.

It is currently unknown who will take over as department head at the new DITRDC – but it certainly won’t be Mrdak. “I was told of the government’s decision to abolish the department late yesterday afternoon,” Mrdak said in a memo quoted on Channel Nine.

He added: “We were not permitted any opportunity to provide advice on the machinery of government changes, nor were our views ever sought on any proposal to abolish the department or to changes to our structure and operations.”

He added that he would work with staff to make the transition as seamless as possible. Other department secretaries soon to be out of a job include Daryl Quinlivan (Agriculture and Water Resources), Kerri Hartland (Employment and Skills), Renee Leon (Human Services) and Heather Smith (Industry). All are to depart by February.

Other mega-departments to be established under Morrison’s new regime include: Education, Skills and Employment; Agriculture, Water and the Environment; and Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

Morrison has said that the rationale behind the new arrangements is to cut bureaucratic red tape and lead to better services. Some critics fear it might just make things worse, with the bundled departmental teams vying for attention.

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