Head public servant Jodie Ryan has announced a shake-up of the NT Government’s departments, merging 15 departments into 11 mega departments, which the government claims will save $5 million a year without sacking anyone.
The changes come as Chief Minister Michael Gunner unveiled his new cabinet, which will see a number of ministerial changes including removing Nicole Manison as Treasurer and assuming the role himself. But he maintained the restructure of the departments would not lead to any sackings.
Ms Ryan said the changes to the departments were necessary to “achieve the government’s priorities” while admitting it could cause anxiety for public servants who were only made aware of the changes today.
“For many public sector employees, machinery of government changes can be a source of a great deal of anxiety about changes in roles and responsibilities, reporting structures and the potential of having to relocate to a new workspace,” Ms Ryan wrote in an internal email to public servants.
“I know this can be an unsettling time for those affected while the details are being bedded down, however I want to reassure you that the work you do will largely not change.”
Ms Ryan did not reference any job losses in her email.
Mr Gunner said the only job losses will “essentially” come from natural attrition, despite claims the merger will save $5 million. He reiterated the changes had nothing to do with cutting jobs.
“I anticipate that will be done essentially through attrition as you go through what that organisational restructure might be over a period of time,” he said. “It wouldn’t be done overnight, so staff, if you’re out there, don’t be worried, it’s essentially about creating better decision making through those departments … There will be some corporate savings efficiencies but it’s not being done for that purpose, it’s being done to better support government decision making and getting results for Territorians.”
Opposition CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro said the merging of the departments would cause confusion at a time when the Territory economy needed stability.
“This will cause confusion, overlap and uncertainty at a time when we need clarity and decisiveness,” she said. “It also creates additional bureaucracy by increasing the number of ministries by approximately 50 per cent.
“When Labor came to power in 2016, they created large departments, which have not been supported by Government to deliver on the outcomes needed.
“Now Labor have made even larger departments with our main economic drivers placed in a single mega-department which will be directed by at least three separate ministers.”
Department of Chief Minister to become a super department
The Department of Chief Minister will now be known as the Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet and will see Ms Ryan remain as chief executive and oversee the majority of Investment Territory functions from the former Department of Trade Business and Innovation, as well as assume local government and community development responsibilities from the former Department of Housing.
Ms Ryan said the new super department will also assume the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment for “budget purposes only”.
Primary Industry, Tourism and Racing, Gaming and Licencing functions, as well as alcohol policy, will now be carried out by the new Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, overseen by former Department of Business chief executive Shaun Drabsch.
The new Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities will be overseen by Ken Davies and will merge the functions of the former Territory Families with housing and Indigenous essential services, disability services from the Department of Health, as well as arts and culture, sport and heritage.
A new Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security will be headed up by Jo Townsend and will merge the functions of the former Department of Environment and Natural Resources with Parks and Wildlife.
Ms Ryan said the remaining seven departments will “be largely unchanged” and that staff affected by the changes will be provided with details over the coming days.