Meet The New Prime Minister's Chief of Staff
The old adage is that a week is a long time in politics. It would now seem that a ‘tweet’ is a long time in politics. In the blink of a news cycle, we have a new Prime Minister, a new Treasurer and a new match-up for the Federal election, whenever that may be.
With any leadership spill there’s always winners and losers, departures and new arrivals and nowhere more so than in the ranks of senior government staff.
One of the real winners is the man who now stands at the helm of the Prime Minister’s Office, Dr John Kunkel. And talk about landing on your feet.
Kunkel arrived on the scene as then Treasurer, Scott Morrison’s Chief of Staff in June of this year, following the well-deserved posting of outgoing COS Phil Gaetjens as Australia’s next ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), based in Paris.
With barely enough time to slip his feet under the desk, Kunkel now finds himself as Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister of Australia.
With a PHD in economics, Kunkel is a master of election policy development. Under the Howard Government he worked in the secretive Cabinet Policy Unit, reviewing and crafting policies designed to resonate with the Coalition’s base.
Following the fall of the Howard Government, Kunkel worked as an economic consultant before joining the Minerals Council of Australia as Deputy CEO.
After more than six years with the MCA, Kunkel joined the corporate ranks of mining giant Rio Tinto, as head of Government Relations. It was a difficult time to enter the ranks of one of mining’s largest global players. Commodity prices were only just starting to recover following one of the longest cyclical downturns in a generation and Rio itself was going through a significant restructure including selling assets in NSW and shedding senior staff.
After two years with Rio Tinto, the halls of Canberra whispered Dr Kunkel back.
Kunkel is an excellent policy strategist with years of political trench fighting experience. However he’ll have a task ahead of him, ensuring the Government doesn’t follow the 2016 election policy mistakes where a number of Turnbull Government economic policies antagonised traditional Coalition voters, particularly on the issue of superannuation.
Kunkel’s ability to craft policies that appeal to the Coalition’s traditional supporters – small business, self-funded retirees and families – will be critical if the Prime Minister is going to reunify a Government bloodied by infighting and reverse the exodus of voter support to minor parties like One Nation.