Scott Morrison finalises inner circle of advisers and will now get to work on policy

Following the appointment of Andrew Shearer as cabinet secretary, the prime minister’s new team is complete

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has finalised his inner circle of advisers and is planning a series of brainstorming sessions for policy development that will ramp up by the year’s end.

Following the appointment of the national security expert Andrew Shearer as cabinet secretary this week, all of the key positions for Morrison’s new team have now been finalised.

The core group advising Morrison on policy and strategy on a daily basis include principal private secretary Yaron Finkelstein, chief of staff John Kunkel, head of media Andrew Carswell, and policy head Alex Caroly.

Finkelstein’s role is one of the most important in the office, with the well-regarded campaign operative having worked under the Howard government and at polling and strategy firm Crosby Textor.

Morrison’s right-hand man Kunkel, who was chief of staff to Morrison as treasurer, has a background in economic policy development and is another veteran of the Howard years.

He also has experience in the mining sector having worked for Rio Tinto in government relations and as the deputy chief executive at the Minerals Council of Australia.

Several key staff of Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott also remain in the prime minister’s office, including Abbott’s speechwriter Paul Ritchie and Turnbull’s legal counsel Daniel Ward.

Ward was credited with coming up with the idea of the postal plebiscite for same-sex marriage while working as an adviser in the office of the then attorney general George Brandis.

Morrison has also surrounded himself with trusted policy advisers, including Jimmy Kipploks in defence, Michelle Chan on national security, Rachel Howard on education, and Brendan Pearson on trade.

The former Reserve Bank of Australia economist Craig Evans and the Productivity Commission adviser Nico Louw provide the PM with economic policy advice.

David Hughes, who has worked for Joe Hockey, Julie Bishop and Abbott, heads up strategy and research.

Other key members of Morrison’s office include his long-serving executive assistant, Latisha Wenlock, and head of programme, Sonja Gentile.

Beyond his immediate staff Morrison relies heavily on the Western Australian MP Ben Morton, one of his closest confidantes in Canberra, who was appointed assistant minister to the prime minister and cabinet following the May election.

Morton is heading up the government’s deregulation agenda, and has been tasked with consulting with the business community about what changes are needed to improve productivity.

Since the May election, which saw the Morrison government secure a surprise win, the PMO has conducted a series of policy brainstorming sessions on issues including plastic waste, veterans affairs and Indigenous suicide.

A series of further policy planning sessions are planned across a range of departments, with the sessions attended by the relevant minister, departmental heads and Morrison’s key advisers.

The PMO is using the sessions to come up with a range of ideas to implement in this term of government, with the “deep dive” aimed at coming up with pragmatic solutions to policy challenges.

Now with his trusted team of advisers locked in, Morrison will be hoping to develop an agenda to see him through the 46th parliament, and one that keeps faith with voters who delivered the Coalition its unexpected victory.


Sarah Martin Chief political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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