Mrdak takes up new role amid shakeup of departmental secretaries

A file image of Mike Mrdak speaking at the Australian Airports Association annual conference in 2014.
Mike Mrdak speaking at the Australian Airports Association annual conference in 2014.

Senior public servant Mike Mrdak has been appointed Secretary of the Department of Communication and the Arts, ending a near decade long run as head of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull revealed the change of role for Mrdak on Thursday as part of a major shakeup of the public service that will result in 10 new Departmental Secretaries.

Mrdak, who has led the Department since June 2009 and has worked in the Australian public service since 1998, takes up his new position on September 18, having been appointed for a five-year term.

The Prime Minister named Dr Steven Kennedy as the new Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Dr Kennedy is currently Deputy Secretary in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, with responsibility for innovation and transformation. He has also previously worked at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science; Environment; Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education; and Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the Prime Minister said.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said Mrdak had been an outstanding Secretary.

“Under Mike’s professional leadership, the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has helped this government deliver infrastructure projects and programs throughout Australia, which have made a difference in people’s lives,” Chester said in a statement.

“A feature of his time in office has been the major improvements to the national land transport network and he was instrumental in developing the government’s future infrastructure investment plans for projects such as the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail and Western Sydney Airport.”

Further, Chester said he was looking forward to working with Dr Kennedy, who the Minister said had an “outstanding record in the public service”.

Elsewhere, there have also been personnel changes at Airservices Australia and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

At Airservices, board member John Weber has been appointed as deputy chair, while fellow director Samantha Betzien has been given a new three-year term.

Weber has been on the Airservices board since April, while Betzien joined the board in June 2012.

Current deputy chair Tony Matthews’ term expires in September, according to the Airservices website.

Minister Chester has appointed a new board member for Airservices, with Dr Marlene Kanga given a three-year term.

Dr Kanga was previously national president of Engineers Australia and is currently holds a number of non-executive director positions. In December 2017, she will take up the post of president of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations.

“Dr Kanga brings strong infrastructure, engineering innovation and governance experience to the board, while Ms Betzien’s re-appointment will retain safety, risk management, and legal experience on the board,” Chester said.

Finally, Chester said ATSB commissioner Noel Hart has been reappointed for a further two years.

“Mr Hart’s extensive international and domestic maritime experience continues to be highly valuable to the activities of the commission, and complements the aviation and rail experience of the other two part-time commissioners,” Chester said.

Hart has been an ATSB commissioner since July 2009.