Australian Financial Review
January 30, 2017

One of Hillary Clinton’s hot picks to lead the United States Department of Energy has been appointed as chief executive of the Australian Energy Market Operator, as part of the political and corporate exodus in the wake of Donald Trump’s upset election victory.

It comes as four top officials from the US State Department, the equivalent of America’s foreign ministry, resigned last week amid reports of a mass exodus of senior foreign service civil servants under the Trump administration and his selection for secretary of state Rex Tillerson, ahead of issuing an executive order banning migrants and refugees from seven Muslim countries.

Executive recruitment experts said it was common for advisers and political appointees to be displaced after a regime change and Australia represented a moderate political environment and inviting corporate market, making it a tempting recruiting ground for those out of favour.

“A change in leadership in any organisation, be it the public or private sector, always serves as a catalyst for other senior executives to reassess their own career options,” said executive recruiter at Heidrick & Struggles, Guy Farrow.

Greg Robinson, managing partner from Blenheim Partners said “the call to service in the United States is far more prestigious, compelling and powerful than in Australia” and therefore attracts some of the best corporate talent, many of who are now being displaced by the Trump regime.

Climate out of favour

President Trump has appointed former Texas governor and one-time presidential rival Rick Perry to lead his US Department of Energy, an agency he once vowed to abolish in stark contrast to Ms Clinton who was reported to want to give the choice “unprecedented attention” given the threat of climate change.

Audrey Zibelman, who begins her role at AEMO from March based in Melbourne at a critical time for energy markets in Australia, was described as the “linchpin” of New York grid reforms and among a group of prominent New York energy regulators pushing through innovative new climate policies leading to speculation she was a favourite for the prize US role if Ms Clinton had been elected.

“Audrey’s vast experience in creating and managing new wholesale electricity markets, and transforming existing energy markets and large power systems will further strengthen the work that AEMO has undertaken to support Australia’s energy industry transformation,” AEMO chairman Dr Anthony Marxsen said.

Mr Robinson said while Australian corporates are not typically attracted to political appointments in the same way as the US, he is seeing an increasing number of public servants moving into the corporate sphere including Ken Henry as chairman of NAB, long-time public servants Peter Shergold and Russell Higgins and former Ambassador to China Dr Geoff Raby into director careers.

Article by Patrick Durkin, BOSS Deputy Editor


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