Fresh face to lead Conroy's department

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Fresh face to lead Conroy's department

Broadband department secretary shifted to Productivity Commission.

Victorian public servant and Hawke-era adviser Peter Harris was anointed successor to Patricia Scott, secretary of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today said that Scott, a secretary at the human services and broadband departments for more than five years, will leave her post to join the Productivity Commission.

Harris, secretary at the Victorian Department of Sustainability and the Environment, has held Federal and State government positions but no mention of his experience in telecommunications or IT was cited during his appointment.

Harris has worked in the highest levels of government. He was senior private secretary to Prime Minister Bob Hawke from 1989 to 1991. And he worked for the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science and Technology as assistant secretary, communications and aviation in 1994.

His resume boasts a short stint in the private sector, working as vice president of government and international affairs with the Air New Zealand/Ansett Group in 2001 before entering the Victorian public service in 2002.

Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin was wary in his welcome of Harris today, noting Harris had "no apparent experience in complex communications issues".  

 "I find it hard to believe that a suitably qualified replacement for Patricia Scott could not be found from within the department or anywhere else in the Commonwealth public service," Senator Minchin said.

"I would be appalled if Ms Scott - who is a senior public servant of the highest integrity - has been made a scapegoat for a Minister's total mishandling of his portfolio."

Harris' appointment has been set for five years.

Niceties for Scott

Senator Stephen Conroy thanked Patricia Scott, who had worked as a secretary during the Howard era, for her efforts as secretary of the department.

"Patricia has guided me through the challenging process of transition to Government, implementing new policy and the mysteries of cabinet processes," Senator Conroy said.

"Patricia has worked tirelessly to assist the Government to deliver its policy agenda and election commitments. Establishing the company to rollout and operate the national broadband network has been a major feat and Patricia has played a strong part in its creation."

Conroy said Scott contributed to "the delivery of important cyber-safety and e-security programs and our responses to inadequate communications facilities in regional, rural and remote Australia".

Scott thanked her staff for their support, hard work, ideas and enthusiasm.

"We have achieved a lot together," she said. "Over the last five years as a secretary I have had a wealth of opportunities and challenges.

"I am certainly proud of what we have accomplished, both in terms of developing and implementing Government policy and also within the department itself."

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