New SA Liberal Government Sacks Four Senior Public Servants

Steven Marshall at a podium for a news conference.

New South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has called his first news conference at the State Administration Centre in Adelaide to announce four senior public servants have been sacked.

Those being dismissed by the new Liberal administration are Department of Premier and Cabinet chief executive Don Russell, Michael Deegan from the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, Sandy Pitcher from Environment and Natural Resources and Ingrid Haythorpe from the Attorney-General’s Department.

It will cost taxpayers $2 million for the departures of the four senior executives.

Mr Marshall said he had asked the commissioner for public sector employment to look at the sum required to terminate the contracts.

“I think this is an extraordinary sum but the reality is that was the detail that was contained within the contracts that the chief executives had entered into with the previous Labor government,” he said.

Mr Marshall said he considered the changes essential to the new Government being able to implement its reform agenda, but no other department heads were likely to go for now.

He said there would be talks with other chief executives about the Liberals’ plans and some senior staff might have their responsibilities changed.

“We don’t envisage any other terminations of chief executives in the immediate future,” he said.

“It’s a new government, it’s a new direction and we feel there are other people that we would like serving in these very, very significant roles.”

He said the full cabinet would be sworn in on Thursday.

“Then it’s straight to work, we’ve got an ambitious agenda,” he said.

Mr Marshall was sworn in as Premier by the Governor on Monday, after the Liberals ousted the four-term Labor government in last weekend’s election.

Along with the new state leader, his deputy Vickie Chapman was sworn in and appointed Attorney-General, while Rob Lucas was made Treasurer.

Mr Lucas has already made clear he will only serve four years before retiring from State Parliament after a long career, which also saw him serve as treasurer until 2002 when Labor took office.

Russell sacked before

It is the second time Don Russell has been sacked by an incoming Liberal government.

Don Russell
He moved to the South Australian public service after he was sacked as secretary of the federal Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education when Tony Abbott won government in 2013.

Dr Russell also advised Paul Keating in the 1990s, and was later ambassador to Washington.

He faced criticism in South Australia when it was revealed he was a ‘fly-in, fly-out’ public servant, returning to his family home in Sydney at weekends.

Michael Deegan headed up Infrastructure Australia but left soon after criticising the Abbott Government’s changes to the organisation.

He was later appointed to South Australia’s Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure in 2014.

Both Sandy Pitcher and Ingrid Haythorpe rose through the ranks of the state public service before being appointed CEOs.

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