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Public service faces mergers, axings

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UPDATED: The State Government has announced the merger of two major departments to create a new Department of State Development.

Premier Jay Weatherill announced today that the new department would be created from a merger of the Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy (DMITRE) and the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST).

The merger will be accompanied by changes at the senior executive level, with the Government advertising for a new CEO to oversee the new department. In the interim, Raymond Garran will act as CEO.

This morning, a series of CEOs and deputy CEOs were called in to the Premier’s Department today to receive the good or bad news.

Weatherill said today the department would be the government’s “front door to business” and would be given the task of implementing Labor’s jobs plan.

“We are bringing together the portfolios of employment and business to provide stewardship of the next stage of the state’s economic transformation,” he said.

“This is about creating stronger links between Government and the private sector so that barriers to job creation can be identified and removed. The department will also be given the role of case managing private sector major projects to ensure they are given the best opportunity to succeed.

“It is is red tape we will remove it, if it is bureaucratic delays we will speed it up, if it is finance that is required, we will help them submit a case to the Job Accelerator Fund.”

The department would be responsible for helping the Government “realise the agenda” set out in Labor’s election manifesto.

The merger was included in the fine print of Labor’s costings document, released in the election campaign. That document promises a reduction in 20 full-time equivalent staff members as a result of the merger.

Cabinet today is the first meeting after Weatherill’s return from holidays, and comes a day before the opening of the new Parliament in which the Governor Kevin Scarce will give the traditional speech outlining the government’s agenda for the next four years.

Weatherill’s post-election changes to the ministry mean that the merged department would answer to three ministers – Susan Close, Minister for Manufacturing, Innovation and Trade; Gail Gago, Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Science and Information Economy; and Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, who is also Minister for State Development.

Weatherill also announced that, beginning next week, he would begin a series of visits to businesses in Adelaide and regional South Australia “to speak to them about these changes and listen to their ideas for creating jobs”.

He told a press conference that there would be no job cuts, but modest savings, from the merger.

Current DMITRE chief executive Geoff Knight “may well be an applicant” for the job.

“If he is, he’ll be a strong candidate,” Weatherill said.

The Premier hinted at more public service changes to come.

“We are renewing the upper levels of the public service,” he said. “There will be some significant further announcements.”

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