2 September 2023

Victorian public servant to head federal Agriculture department

| Chris Johnson
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Adam Fennessy will be the next secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Photo: ANZSOG.

Former Victorian public servant Adam Fennessy has been announced as the new secretary of the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Mr Fennessy will take up the five-year appointment on 18 September, replacing Andrew Metcalfe, who retired on 4 August.

Mr Fennessy is currently the dean and chief executive officer of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), headquartered in Melbourne.

Established in 2002, ANZSOG presents ‘thought leadership’ and research for governments and public administration in collaboration with university partners.

Mr Fennessy was awarded a Public Service Medal in 2018 in recognition of his outstanding public service to government departments in Victoria.

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Having previously served as the secretary of the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries and then that state’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Mr Fennessy was the Victorian Public Service Commissioner between 2020 and 2022.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced Mr Fennessy’s appointment on Thursday (31 August), saying he was pleased Governor-General David Hurley had accepted the recommendation.

“With his strong subject matter knowledge in primary industries, including well-established relationships with industry, and significant experience in organisational transformation, Mr Fennessy will be able to make an immediate contribution to the strategic leadership of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the broader Australian Public Service,” the Prime Minister said.

“On behalf of my government, I thank Mr Metcalfe for his dedicated service and leadership, including as secretary of three Departments of State since 2005.”

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt welcomed the appointment, saying Mr Fennessy will bring “a wealth of experience in public sector leadership and agriculture, environment and natural resources policy experience” to the role.

“He has more than 25 years of public sector experience at state and federal levels, most recently as the Victorian Public Sector Commissioner,” Senator Watt said.

READ ALSO Department of Agriculture needs to grow some more money

Signalling that the new secretary has big shoes to fill, Senator Watt had high praise for Mr Metcalfe.

“My relationship with Mr Metcalfe was one of strong collaboration and openness,” Senator Watt said.

“I am looking forward to working with Mr Fennessy in partnership with the agricultural sector to strengthen our biosecurity protections, grow our export markets, invest in improved sustainability practices and support our farming communities to prepare for the opportunities of the future.

“I would like to thank acting secretary Ms Cindy Briscoe for her leadership of the department in the transition period following the retirement of Andrew Metcalfe.”

Following the announcement, Mr Fennessy took to social media to further spread the news of his appointment.

“I’m honoured that @AlboMP has recommended the Governor-General appoint me as new Secretary of @DAFFgov,” he wrote.

“I’m excited to support Minister for Agriculture Senator @MurrayWatt to enhance agricultural industries & trade & manage biosecurity risks to Aust.”

The department Mr Fennessy will soon run has struggled with its finances. Mr Metcalfe was forced to introduce an extensive cost-slashing regimen in the past year. Contractors were fired, unessential travel banned, training programs stopped and numerous projects put on ice.

A budget injection was sought to keep the department functioning properly.

The federal budget allocated an additional $127 million to cover the gap for increased operational activities, and (among other funded projects) allocated $1 billion over the forward estimates and $268 million annually ongoing for a strengthened biosecurity system.

Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.

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