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Paul Shetler dead at 59; Australian IT world mourns

Australia’s technology industry was in deep mourning yesterday, following news that Paul Shetler, former head of the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Office, had died at the age of 59.

A man who has always seemed in good health, he apparently died at his home after suffering a heart attack. He is said to have been surrounded by family and loved ones in the last week’s final days.

Paul Shetler, imported from Britain in 2015 at the behest of then PM Tony Abbott, was given the job of shaking up a turgid Australian public service and persuading the then reluctant department heads – often known as the “fat cats” – to speed up the embrace of rapidly changing technology by government departments and agencies.

Abbott was replaced by Malcolm Turnbull, who was initially supportive of Shetler, but later largely ignored him – and in November 2016 hired a new boss for the Digital Transformation Agency, Nerida O’Loughlin, downgrading Shetler to “chief digital officer”.

It was plain that Shetler’s plans for a strong and immediate drive to bring government agencies into the rapidly changing information age had been hung out to dry – and within weeks Shetler had resigned.

He had simply wanted government agencies to be easy to deal with, agile in working with the new technology-based age, and receptive to Australian people’s needs.

A stickler for clear information and speedy action, he just didn’t fit with the combination of fat-cat resistance and bureaucratic lethargy.

Shetler returned briefly to the UK but came back to Australia where he became involved in consulting, advising, mentoring and advocating – all of which he was very good at.

He’ll be badly missed by his friends and fellow workers, not to mention the media, with which he had good relations.

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