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It’s Not a Party, Don

By Simon Grose

A key Labor reformer pads up again in the Department of Innovation.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

How did it come to this? Just weeks after being appointed Secretary of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Dr Don Russell scored an extra gig as head of a the government’s response to BlueScope Steel’s production and jobs cutbacks.

As Principal Advisor to then-Treasurer Paul Keating from 1985 to 1993, Russell can claim a chunk of credit for fundamental economic reforms that pushed Australian manufacturing to be globally competitive. Now he’s running a scramble to shore up productive capacity, jobs and votes as a major industry buckles under the inexorable weight of the high Australian dollar, which renders it globally uncompetitive.

Russell didn’t have to return to the Canberra fray. Serving as Ambassador to the US after his time with Keating, he worked in investment banking there and back home before settling in as chair of NSW State Super.

And the fit with his Minister, Senator Kim Carr, is not naturally comfy. Carr’s ideological and instinctive approach to his role is to protect and pick winners (which turn out to be losers, car manufacturing looming as the prime example).

The flakey political and policy performance of Labor governments led by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard would have been increasingly gruesome for Russell to watch from the Sydney CBD.

As a major shaper of the Hawke–Keating reforms that made...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Simon Grose is a Director of Science Media (sciencemedia.com.au).