22/03/2017 - 15:19

Foster moves into Premier & Cabinet

22/03/2017 - 15:19

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A former chief of staff to Premier Mark McGowan has been seconded to a senior role in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, triggering speculation he may become the next director general, putting him at the centre of government power.

Darren Foster started in the role of acting deputy director general of Premier and Cabinet on Monday. Photo: Courtesy of the Department of Fisheries

A former chief of staff to Premier Mark McGowan has been seconded to a senior role in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, triggering speculation he may become the next director general, putting him at the centre of government power.

Darren Foster started in the role of acting deputy director general of Premier and Cabinet on Monday.

He has filled a gap left by the recent departure of deputy director general Richard May, who is understood to be on leave and likely to join another agency.

The McGowan government is expected to advertise the crucial position of director general this year.

It has been substantively vacant since August last year following the retirement of Peter Conran, who was appointed to the role in 2008 after the election of the Barnett government.

Mr Conran brought extensive experience to the role, including as secretary to cabinet and head of the cabinet policy unit in the office of former prime minister John Howard, and was seen as someone who could work with a Liberal premier such as Mr Barnett.

In a similar vein, Mr McGowan is expected to seek a director general with public service experience and a political radar attuned to the needs of a Labor government.

Mr Foster spent four years as Mr McGowan’s ministerial chief of staff until 2008, and before that was deputy director of the government media office and a media adviser to ministers including former treasurer Eric Ripper.

He is now a permanent public servant, and his substantive role, held since late 2015, is deputy director general of the Department of Fisheries.

His prior role was director of strategic policy and planning in the Office of the Environmental Protection Authority.

Mr Foster’s past experience includes being a permanent public servant in the Commonwealth government and working in local government.

If, and when, the director general’s position is advertised, there will be a normal application and evaluation process.

Hence, if Mr Foster applies for the position, he would face competition from any other applicants.

David Smith has been acting director general of Premier and Cabinet since Mr Conran’s retirement in August, and he is expected to continue in that role for at least the immediate future.

Mr Smith is a career public servant with experience in the Department of Treasury & Finance in Perth and the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet in Canberra.

Lyn Genoni is filling his substantive role, as deputy director general, economic and deregulation, on an acting basis.

* For a detailed analysis of who holds real power in the McGowan Labor government, see the next edition of Business News, available online and in print this Monday.

 

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