The Treasury, fully Department of the Treasury, is the Australian Government ministerial 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.

The most senior public servant in the Treasury is the department secretary, currently Steven Kennedy who was appointed in September 2019.[2] Ministerial responsibility for the department lies with the Treasurer, currently Jim Chalmers who took office in the Albanese government in May 2022.


The Australian Treasury was established in Melbourne in January 1901, after the federation of the six Australian colonies.[3] In 1910, the federal government passed the Australian Notes Act 1910 which gave control over the issue of Australian bank notes to The Treasury and prohibited the circulation of state notes and withdrew their status as legal tender.[4][5] The Treasury issued notes until 1924, when the responsibility was transferred to the Commonwealth Bank and later to Note Printing Australia, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia.[6]

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


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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.[7]

Secretaries to the Treasury

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

Order Name Term begin Term end Time in office
1 George Allen 1 January 1901 13 March 1916 15 years, 72 days
2 James Collins 14 March 1916 26 June 1926 10 years, 104 days
3 James Heathershaw 3 August 1926 28 April 1932 5 years, 269 days
4 Sir Harry Sheehan 29 April 1932 28 February 1938 5 years, 305 days
5 Stuart McFarlane 24 March 1938 29 January 1948 9 years, 311 days
6 George Watt 23 November 1948 31 March 1951 2 years, 128 days
7 Sir Roland Wilson 1 April 1951 27 October 1966 15 years, 209 days
8 Sir Richard Randall 28 October 1966 31 October 1971 5 years, 3 days
9 Sir Frederick Wheeler 1 November 1971 5 January 1979 7 years, 65 days
10 John Stone 8 January 1979 14 September 1984 5 years, 250 days
11 Bernie Fraser 19 September 1984 18 September 1989 4 years, 364 days
12 Chris Higgins 19 September 1989 6 December 1990 1 year, 78 days
13 Tony Cole 14 February 1991 23 March 1993 2 years, 37 days
14 Ted Evans 24 May 1993 26 April 2001 7 years, 335 days
15 Ken Henry 27 April 2001 4 March 2011 9 years, 311 days
16 Martin Parkinson 7 March 2011 12 December 2014 3 years, 280 days
17 John Fraser 15 January 2015 31 July 2018 3 years, 197 days
18 Philip Gaetjens 1 August 2018 2 September 2019 1 year, 32 days
19 Steven Kennedy 2 September 2019 Incumbent 3 years, 92 days

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.[8] 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.[9]

— 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.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Annual Report 2020-21|date=29 September 2021|author=Department of the Treasury|publisher=Department of the Treasury
  2. ^ "Dr Steven Kennedy". Department of the Treasury. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  3. ^ Our Department Archived 4 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine. The Treasury. Retrieved on 24 June 2012.
  4. ^ "THE AUSTRALIAN NOTE ISSUE". Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  5. ^ Reserve Bank of Australia, History of Banknotes
  6. ^ "Production". Reserve Bank of Australia Banknotes. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Finance and Markets". The Treasury. Archived from the original on 28 June 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Stephen Long (19 May 2009). Treasury boss says Budget was beyond the 'reading age' of its critics. PM. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  10. ^ "Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook". Commonwealth of Australia. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2013.

External links