10/06/2010 - 00:00

Marney reappointment removes doubt

10/06/2010 - 00:00


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IN a quiet announcement last Tuesday, Public Sector Commi-ssioner Mal Wauchope revealed that Tim Marney had been reappointed as under-treasurer for another five years.

IN a quiet announcement last Tuesday, Public Sector Commi-ssioner Mal Wauchope revealed that Tim Marney had been reappointed as under-treasurer for another five years.

This was a surprise because the rumour mill suggested that Mr Marney’s reappointment was in doubt. At best, it was suggested by some government observers, the under-treasurer might get an extension of one or two years.

Appointed by Labor in 2005 after the exit of his predecessor, John Langoulant, Mr Marney had been allowed to play a public role under the previous government.

But that did not wash with the conservative leadership, especially when he was outspoken about the costs associated with keeping Royal Perth Hospital as a teaching institution.

Public servants are to be seen and not heard under Premier Colin Barnett’s view of the Westminster system of government. That caused many to believe Mr Marney’s number was up and that the baton might be handed to his capable deputy, Michael Barnes.

However, the sudden departure from state cabinet of Troy Buswell at the end of April had left Mr Barnett in a difficult position if, indeed, he had wanted to replace Mr Marney. That is because Mr Barnett is also looking for someone to take up the Treasury portfolio in cabinet.

As reported last week in WA Business News, insiders believe Planning and Arts Minister John Day is the most likely candidate, with Attorney-General Christian Porter also viewed as an outside chance.

But Mr Barnett was unlikely to want to have a new treasurer and new under-treasurer being blooded in at the same time.

The suggestion from political observers was that Mr Marney’s contract would be renewed for one or two years. Perhaps he drove a tougher bargain?

All we know on the record is from parliament, when Mr Barnett responded to questions about his under-treasurer’s future from opposition leader Eric Ripper.

“Mr Tim Marney, the under-treasurer, is a very bright and very competent person,” he said. “I have had a discussion with him about his position, and in due course I will take a recommendation to cabinet, and the leader of the opposition will be the first to know.”

Mr Marney’s reappointment is one of three key moves at this level of the bureaucracy in the past two months.

The first, in April, was the appointment of Reece Waldock as director-general of the Department of Transport, a position vacant since the department was reformed in July to oversee Main Roads and the Public Transport Authority. Mr Waldock had been CEO of the PTA since 2003 and takes over the role from former Main Roads Commissioner Menno Henneveld, who was acting in the role of director-general.

Mr Hennveld has been appointed managing director of Main Roads.

Last month, Water Minister Graham Jacobs announced that Department of Water director-general Kim Taylor would be vacating the role.

According to the premier, the move came after a breakdown of the relationship between the minister and Mr Taylor.

Dr Jacobs told parliament that Mr Taylor was not the right person for the job but the opposition has hounded Mr Jacobs over the decision, highlighting his views on climate change as a related issue.

“Water reform in Western Australia involves many issues, and the member knows that,” Dr Jacobs told parliament in late May.

“But the essence of it is that there has been a breakdown in the relationship and the ability of that skill set to deliver true water reform in Western Australia.”

Dr Jacobs was grilled over his stance on climate change at a budget estimates hearing at parliament last Wednesday after admitting he had ordered officials to remove the climate change references.

Dr Jacobs declined to clarify his stance on climate change but said his views did not influence his role as water minister.

State opposition water spokesman, Fran Logan, who has led the parliamentary attack, said the issue was serious.

“He’s the minister for water and the premier of Western Australia should take this issue very seriously,” he said on ABC Radio.

The opposition has challenged Dr Jacobs extensively on the subject, including the role of his chief of staff Darren Brown.

“Was Mr Taylor giving advice to the minister’s chief of staff that he disagreed with? Is the minister going to tell this parliament what role his chief of staff played in the termination of Kim Taylor?” Mr Logan asked in parliament.

“This house needs to know.”



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