Canberra department reshuffle sees Communications with Infrastructure and Services Australia under Social Services

The number of departments in the federal government has been reduced from 18 to 14.

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Image: Asha Barbaschow

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday that come February 2020, the number of federal departments will be reduced to 14.

In the changes, the former Department of Communications will be taken under the banner of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Communications. Arts will remain along with the Communications portfolio.

Fresh from its May renaming from the Department of Human Services to Services Australia, Services Australia will now be an executive agency sitting within the Department of Social Services.

The Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science will now take on the energy portion from the former Department of the Environment and Energy to become the Department of Industry, Science, Energy, and Resources, while the environment portion is now part of the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment.

The Department of Education will now take on the Department of Employment, Skill, Small and Family Business to become the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment, while the small business functions will end up in the new Industry department.  

Along with the changes in department structure, five departmental secretaries will depart, including Communications chief Mike Mrdak.

Morrison said although the government is undertaking a machinery of government change, there will be no changes to the ministries. The Prime Minister added the changes were not about cost savings.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said the creation of super-departments would not solve the "service crises", but exacerbate it.

"It is clear that the Prime Minister is out of ideas, first he borrowed Services Australia from the NSW government, now super-departments," CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly said.

"This change will not do anything to address the 48 million unanswered calls to [the Department of Human Services] in 2017/18 or the further 5.3 million calls abandoned out of frustration. These are not the actions of a good government."

Updated at 1.08pm AEDT, 5 December 2019: Added CPSU comment.

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