Former Sherpa takes Comms role

James Riley
Editorial Director

The senior public servant who coordinated the delivery of the Malcolm Turnbull whole of government innovation strategy, Heather Smith, has been appointed as the new secretary of the Department of Communications.

Dr Smith is currently a deputy secretary within Prime Minister and Cabinet where she has been running a ‘projects’ office, which has most notably included the Innovation Taskforce, as well as oversight of the Commonwealth’s re-invigorated open data policy.

Dr Smith, who was Australia’s G20 Sherpa during the year leading up to the G20 summit in Brisbane in late 2014, has been appointed for five years. She replaces former Communications’ departmental secretary Drew Clarke, who last year moved to the Prime Minister’s Office as Mr Turnbull’s Chief of Staff.

The appointment neatly side-steps a potentially strange all-in-the-family conflict of interest, as former Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson – who is Dr Smith’s husband – takes up his new position of the secretary to the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet later this month.

Dr Smith was awarded the prestigious Public Service Medal on Australia Day in 2015 for her work as Australia’s G20 Sherpa. During this time she led the development of the policy agenda and secured strong support from G20 members for the desired outcomes.

During 2013-14, Dr Smith attended the Sherpa meeting in Moscow (October 2013) and chaired Sherpa meetings in Sydney (December 2013), Uluru (March 2014) and Melbourne (June 2014). Throughout this period, she also visited G20 and non-G20 countries and met with business and community stakeholders to build support for practical and ambitious summit outcomes.

Dr Smith graduated with a PhD in 1994 and a Masters of Economics in 1990 from the Australian National University. She also holds a Bachelor of Economics (Honours) from the University of Queensland.

Before joining the public service, Dr Smith was an academic working on North Asia at the Australian National University, holding various positions from 1994-2000. She also worked at the Reserve Bank of Australia from 1988-1990.

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