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Career public servant Foster appointed as new top bureaucrat

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Anthony Albanese has wasted no time in shaking up the ranks of Canberra’s top mandarins, replacing Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Phil Gaetjens with career public servant Stephanie Foster.

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The new prime minister confirmed Foster had been acting in the role of Australia’s top bureaucrat since Sunday. He said a more formal appointment process would follow shortly.

“Stephanie Foster is the acting head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, as of yesterday,” Albanese said.

“I will be making an announcement at an appropriate time after we go through the formal procedures, which are in place, for the appointment of a secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet”.

Gaetjens, a former chief of staff to Scott Morrison and Peter Costello,  was appointed to head the department by Morrison after the 2019 election.

It was widely expected he would be one of the first public service casualties of the incoming Albanese administration. 

Foster, a career diplomat and foreign policy specialist, spent 23 years in the Department of Defence before moving to Albanese’s favoured Infrastructure department during the former Rudd government in 2008 where she was put in charge of local government programs.

Foster headed up the review into parliamentary workforce processes following the alleged rape of Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins in 2019.

Tellingly, she was awarded a French national order of merit for her work promoting defence relations between France and Australia.

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