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Institution-building at the Department of Climate Change: administrative leadership of a roller-coaster ride (A) 2010-117.1

9 December 2010



Departmental Secretary Dr Martin Parkinson sat in his office and gave a sigh of relief. The newly created Department of Climate Change that he had been asked to lead had reached a milestone with the tabling in parliament of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). Establishing to some surprise by the newly elected, ambitious Rudd Government in 2007, it was a rare example of an entirely new, fully-fledged department being created out-of-the-blue. Still, the growing interest in tackling Climate Change attracted talented public servants to work on the most exciting policy area of the day. But there were organisational problems from the moment of birth. Complex and disparate staffing arrangements and a lack of resources for corporate management made it difficult to pull a department together in the first place, especially if it hoped to achieve the size and scope of behemoth departments like Treasury and PM&C. While the tabling of its CPRS was an encouraging example of the Australian Government taking Climate Change seriously, the department faced further urgent challenges. But it was time to take stock of where the department stood and needed to go.

This case, developed for the teaching of leadership, is a graphic illustration of the many and various pressures facing a first-time chief executive in a newly-created department operating in a highly political area. It offers potential for discussion in a number of areas, including issues of organisational culture and design. Part A describes the political environment in which the department was established and gives details of its early structure.

Read more:

  • Part B describes the challenges DCC faced in incorporating larger agencies and portfolios while facing severe political pressure.
  • Part C describes change management exercised by the DCEEE and the department’s agenda to manage its challenging position.
Authors: Professor Paul 't Hart, Professor John Wanna
Published Date: 9 December 2010
Author Institution: Australian National University, Utrecht University
Content Length: 9
Product Type: Part A, Primary resources