Department of the Treasury (Australia)

The Department of the Treasury (or The Treasury) is the Australian Government department responsible for economic policy, fiscal policy, market regulation, and the Australian federal budget. The Treasury is one of only two government departments that have existed continuously since Federation in 1901, the other being the Attorney-General's Department.

Department of the Treasury

The main office of the Department of the Treasury, located in Parkes, ACT.
Agency overview
FormedJanuary 1901
HeadquartersParkes, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Employees1,056 (at April 2013)[1]
Ministers responsible
Agency executive
Parent agencyAustralian Government
Child agencies
WebsiteDepartment of the Treasury Website

The head of the department is the Secretary to the Treasury, presently Philip Gaetjens, who reports to the Treasurer of Australia, presently the Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP and the assistant treasurer, presently the Hon. Michael Sukkar MP.


The Australian Treasury was established in Melbourne in January 1901, after the federation of the six Australian colonies.[2] In 1910, the federal government passed the "Australian Notes Act" which gave control over the issue of Australian bank notes to the Commonwealth Treasury, and prohibited the circulation of state notes and withdrew their status as legal tender.[3][4] The Treasury issued notes until 1924, when the responsibility was transferred to the Commonwealth Bank.

The department is focused on developing Australian taxation system, land and income tax and economic policies.


The Treasury is divided into four groups: fiscal, macroeconomic, revenue and markets, with support coming from the Corporate Services Division. These groups were established to meet four policy outcomes:

Effective government spending and taxation arrangements
The Treasury provides advice on budget policy issues, trends in Commonwealth revenue and major fiscal and financial aggregates, major expenditure programmes, taxation policy, retirement income, Commonwealth-State financial policy and actuarial services.
Sound macroeconomic environment
The Treasury monitors and assesses economic conditions and prospects, both in Australia and overseas, and provides advice on the formulation and implementation of effective macroeconomic policy.
Well functioning markets
The Treasury provides advice on policy processes and reforms that promote a secure financial system and sound corporate practices, remove impediments to competition in product and services markets and safeguard the public interest in matters such as consumer protection and foreign investment.
Effective taxation and retirement income arrangements
The Treasury provides advice and assists in the formulation and implementation of government taxation and retirement income policies and legislation as well as providing information on material changes to taxation revenue forecasts and projections.

Financial regulation

The department works with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Reserve Bank of Australia via the Council of Financial Regulators Working Group to ensure that market operators have appropriate oversight and to facilitate crisis management if required.[5]

Secretaries to the Treasury

The Secretary to the Treasury is the public service head of the department. Below is the list of Secretaries.

OrderNameTerm beginTerm endTime in officeNotes
1George Allen1 January 190113 March 191615 years, 72 daysappointed retrospectively on 9 July 1901
2James Collins14 March 191626 June 192610 years, 104 days
3James Heathershaw3 August 192628 April 19325 years, 269 days
4Sir Henry (Harry) Sheehan29 April 193228 February 19385 years, 305 days
5Stuart McFarlane24 March 193829 January 19489 years, 311 days
6George Watt23 November 194831 March 19512 years, 128 days
7Sir Roland Wilson1 April 195127 October 196615 years, 209 days
8Sir Richard Randall28 October 196631 October 19715 years, 3 days
9Sir Frederick Wheeler1 November 19715 January 19797 years, 65 days
10John Stone8 January 197914 September 19845 years, 250 days
11Bernie Fraser19 September 198418 September 19894 years, 364 days
12Chris Higgins19 September 19896 December 1990277 days
13Tony Cole14 February 199123 March 19932 years, 37 days
14Ted Evans24 May 199326 April 20017 years, 335 days
15Ken Henry27 April 20014 March 20119 years, 311 days
16Martin Parkinson7 March 201112 December 20143 years, 280 days
17John Fraser15 January 201531 July 20183 years, 197 days
18Philip Gaetjens1 August 20182 September 20191 year, 32 days
19Steven Kennedy2 September 2019present

Treasury’s independence

In 2008, Treasurer Wayne Swan called Secretary to the Treasury Ken Henry an "independent economic regulator," similar to the Governor of the Reserve Bank.[6] When asked after the 2009 Budget about Treasury’s independence, Henry replied:

Strictly of course we're not. The Treasury Department is a department of state. It is part of the executive government. It works to the government of the day, whatever the political persuasion of the government of the day. And so in that sense of course the Treasury is not independent from government and it can never behave as if it is independent from government. But there's another sense in which it does have a degree of independence and that is that the Treasury conducts its analysis without government interference. It's up to the government of the day to decide whether to accept that analysis or whether to reject that analysis.[7]

ABC Radio, Tuesday, 19 May 2009


The department is legally required to provide a Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook containing updated reports on the economic and fiscal outlook shortly after the issuing of a writ for a general federal election.[8]

See also


  1. Australian Public Service Commission (2 December 2013), State of the Service Report: State of the Service Series 2012-13 (PDF), Australian Public Service Commission, p. 253, archived from the original (PDF) on 6 December 2013
  2. Our Department Archived 4 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine. The Treasury. Retrieved on 24 June 2012.
  3. "THE AUSTRALIAN NOTE ISSUE". Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  4. Reserve Bank of Australia, History of Banknotes
  5. "Finance and Markets". The Treasury. Archived from the original on 28 June 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
  6. Jennifer Hewett (21 October 2008). RBA warns on bank guarantee as Reserve and Treasury at loggerheads. The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved on 24 June 2012.
  7. Stephen Long (19 May 2009). Treasury boss says Budget was beyond the 'reading age' of its critics. PM. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  8. "Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook". Commonwealth of Australia. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
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