Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Duty calls John Fraser back to head Australia's treasury

John Fraser says he felt he had little choice when approached a few months ago in London about running Australia’s treasury.

A former treasury official who rose to the rank of deputy secretary, he had spent most of the last two decades working in investment banking, much of it overseas with the financial conglomerate UBS.

“This country has been very good to me, and life's been very good to me and I felt I might be able to make a contribution,” he said after the governor general approved his appointment as Australia’s 17th treasury secretary.

“I don't want to sound as if I'm a saint - I am not. But I think all of us, particularly those who have been a bit lucky, have a moral obligation to do something for our country.”

Mr Fraser was jetlagged as the Governor-General approved his appointment. He had arrived from London at 2am and been unable to sleep.

Asked how he’ll run the department differently from his predecessor Martin Parkinson who was forced to resign by the prime minister Mr Fraser said he had no set views and was still learning about how the department had changed.

“Martin has been very helpful in briefing me, and indeed I'll be spending a day with the treasury team before Christmas to go through everything. But no I don't have any thoughts. It’s a broader organisation than when I was there.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey paid tribute to Dr Parkinson who leaves on Friday describing him as a “loyal servant of the Australian people”.

Dr Parkinson was effectively sacked by Mr Abbott shortly after the Coalition took office. Mr Abbott asked him to stay on only until after the May budget. The recently published biography of Mr Hockey indicates the decision was taken without the treasurer’s knowledge. Mr Hockey later managed to negotiate an extension for Dr Parkinson.

“He has utilised his enormous intellect to pursue and affect significant policy change. He is a man of great personal integrity. I wish him all the very best for his future,” Mr Hockey said in a statement.

Mr Fraser said he believed the treasury’s job was to work with rather than for Australia’s political leaders.

In The Age and Sydney Morning Herald

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