Scott Morrison abolishes Department of Communications and Arts as part of public service restructure

The Morrison government has abolished the Department of Communications and the Arts as part of public service restructure, rolling it into a new super department called the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

The shake-up, approved by the Governor General this morning and taking effect on 1 February 2020, sees the number of government departments reduced from 18 to 14 to deliver ‘efficiency’.

Mrdak has been secretary of the department since 2017

“Australians should be able to access simple and reliable services, designed around their needs. Having fewer departments will allow us to bust bureaucratic congestion, improve decision-making and ultimately deliver better services for the Australian people,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“The new structure will drive greater collaboration on important policy challenges. For example, better integrating the Government’s education and skills agenda and ensuring Australians living in regional areas can access the infrastructure and services they need.”

As a result of the restructure, five Secretaries will no longer have a job when the changes take effect on 1 February, including the secretary of the Department of Communications, Mike Mrdak. Simon Atkinson will be the Secretary of the new consolidated department.

“Each of these senior officials has served their country with dedication, commitment and a deep sense of public service over many years, and their advice, achievements and leadership have been valued by governments past and present,” Prime Minister Morrison said.

The Australian Financial Review reports that Mrdak, who has led the department since 2017, was only told of the changes yesterday and claims there was no consultation.

Prime Minister Morrison has confirmed that there will be no reduction in the number of Ministers, while the union for the arts industry, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), said its members “will not take this lying down”.

“The absence of the word ‘Arts’ from the new department’s title says it all,” Paul Murphy, MEAA’s chief executive, said.

“This government’s disdain for the arts has reached a new low. It did not release an arts policy at this year’s federal election, and its attitude has been cut, cut, cut.

“The only explanation we have been given for the abolition of the Arts Department is a wishy-washy statement about reducing government waste. If there are efficiencies to be gained, then there is now no better opportunity than to redirect those savings directly into arts communities and reverse the years of neglect and erosion of funding.”

A spokesperson for the minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts, Paul Fletcher, said that “there is no change to the Morrison Government’s strong commitment to the Arts”, nor a change to the role and funding of the likes of the Australia Council and Screen Australia.

“The dedicated and committed officials working on arts policy will move across from the former Department to the new Department and they continue to have the same responsibilities and the same resources,” the spokesperson said.

“They will continue to be accountable to the Commonwealth Minister for the Arts Paul Fletcher – there has been no change to his Ministerial title or responsibilities and arts policy continues to be the responsibility of a Cabinet Minister.”


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