Ken Henry and Heather Smith enlisted for NSW policy review


Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Former Treasury secretary Dr Ken Henry and former secretary to the federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Dr Heather Smith have been appointed with businessman Jeff Connolly by the NSW Government to lead a landmark industry policy development process.

On Tuesday, the NSW state government announced the trio as the first appointments to the advisory panel charged with developing the state’s first Industry Policy White Paper, which will consolidate nearly a dozen different industry strategies across government.

The single industry policy will shape programs and interventions to address a variety of factors over the next 10 years, and comes amid renewed interest in the role of industry policy.

The decorated public servants are responsible for some of the nation’s biggest economic and innovation reforms, while Mr Connolly spent 18 months developing the Commonwealth’s $2.2 billion research commercialisation action plan.

Dr Ken Henry. Image: ANU Crawford Forum

The policy paper is due in December and the panel’s appointment concludes the first phase of consultations which began in May with a ‘Green Paper’ that flagged the transformative forces expected to influence industry over the coming decade.

Almost 1000 contributions were made in the first phase, with stakeholders providing feedback on how to capitalise on forces like decarbonisation, digitalisation, growing Asian markets, circular economy, and global value chains.

In the next phase, defence giant Thales Australia’s chief executive Jeff Connolly, former Treasury secretary Dr Ken Henry, and former Industry secretary Dr Heather Smith will review the submissions and lead a two-day industry symposium.

“A new state government industry policy will deliver the best business environment in which companies and industries can excel and create sustainable, well-paid jobs and deliver a brighter future for the people of NSW,” minister for enterprise, investment and trade Alister Henskens said in a statement Tuesday.

“It will establish a more active approach by the NSW Government in partnering with the private sector and research institutions to build capacity and capability as new points of comparative advantage are developed

The new panel members have each been responsible for significant economic and industry reform.

Dr Henry is one of Australia’s most decorated public servants and credited with developing Australia’s response to the global financial crisis, and what would be known as the Henry Tax Review during his decade as the Secretary of the Treasury from 2001 to 2011.

After retiring from the public service in 2011, he was appointed special adviser to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a role in which he led the development of the white paper on Australia in the Asian Century.

Dr Henry then moved to the private sector, chairing the ASX and NAB, before resigning from the bank in response to a damning royal commission which criticised his testimony in 2019. He will also step down from his role at the ASX this year after nearly a decade, to be replaced, coincidently, by fellow NSW industry policy panel member Dr Heather Smith.

Dr Smith held roles in Treasury, Office of National Assessments, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. At PMC Dr Smith coordinated the delivery of the Malcolm Turnbull whole of government innovation strategy.

Dr Smith was awarded the prestigious Public Service Medal on Australia Day in 2015 for her work as Australia’s G20 ‘Sherpa’.

She was appointed secretary of the Department of Communications and Arts in 2016. The following year she moved to the Industry department, also as secretary, where she remained until 2020.

Dr Smith has been a non-executive director of investment firm Challenger Limited since 2021 and is a Professor at the ANU National Security College.

Mr Connolly joins the New South Wales panel with a distinctly business background but has spent the last 18 months developing the federal government’s research commercialisation package, which saw more funding committed to researchers working directly with industry and the establishment of six “trailblazer” universities focusing on specific research commercialisation areas.

He also established and chaired the Prime Minister’s Industry 4.0 Taskforce, now known as the AiGroup Industry 4.0 Forum, and he remains on the executive council.

The long time Siemens Australia executive will move to defence giant Thales in September as its new Australian chief executive officer.

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