One of the least surprising announcements

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Maybe the best way to judge someone's legacy is whether they leave an organisation in better shape than when they started.

Jane Halton AO, who led the Department of Health for over 12 years, was always going to be a tough act to follow.

The three-year leadership of Martin Bowles PSM was not helped by having to deal with the remnants of the Coalition's first Budget following its 2013 election victory.

His tenure was dominated by the consequences of a Budget that included a GP co-payment and any number of other measures that ultimately became political and policy failures. 

Yet it was also characterised by extensive changes inside the Department that have resulted in a dramatic reduction in its capability and the loss of some of its most experienced and highly regarded decision-makers.

Maybe these changes will ultimately deliver a positive outcome but few can see it at the moment.

The impact of extensive organisational and personnel changes inside the Department, not least the recent restructure creating the Technology, Assessment and Access division, are the subject of significant concern across the private health and pharmaceutical sectors.

Given Mr Bowles' resignation follows the recent retirement of deputy secretary Andrew Stuart, the driver of the restructure, it is hard not to feel some frustration for the officials left behind to deal with the consequences of a change few understand.


The deterioration in the relationship between Mr Bowles and health minister Greg Hunt has been an open secret. Some speculate they have not spoken since the Budget in May, which is why far from being a surprise, yesterday's announcement, even its timing, was expected and widely known.