EP #104: The power of leadership devolution with Blair Comley PSM 

Secretary of the Department of Health and Aged Care Blair Comley PSM tells the story of his public service career, and highlights how devolving leadership in the public sector can reduce risk, increase work quality and staff satisfaction.

Blair Comley PSM looks back at an outstanding career across the public and private sectors, from designing the GST to driving the Department of Health and Aged Care’s recent capability review.

On this episode of Work with Purpose, he revisits some of the milestones of his career and how they have shaped his approach to devolution – where mid-level staff in the public sector are empowered to make decisions and build closer relationships important stakeholders. He discusses the three key ingredients to make it happen at your organisation: skills, culture, and capability.

In conversation with podcast host David Pembroke, Blair also explores uplifting policy capability at the Department of Health and Aged Care, communicating with success, and what role consultants can play in public sector work.

Discussed in this episode:

  • Devolution and its benefits for the public sector
  • The Department of Health and Aged Care’s capability review
  • Uplifting policy-making capability
  • Key writing and communications skills for policymakers
  • Lessons from consulting work
  • The role of consulting in the public service
  • The importance of optimism for driving innovation.

Show notes:


Blair Comley PSM

Blair commenced as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Aged Care on 17 July 2023.

Blair has served as the secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. He has also served as secretary of the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW’s most senior public servant.

Blair trained as an economist and has worked extensively on market design issues including leading the design of carbon prices, the GST and Commonwealth competitive neutrality policy and other aspects of competition policy. He has had extensive engagement with Commonwealth-state relations, including reform of the federation and health funding in his role as Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet in the NSW Government.

Blair also has significant private sector experience as a strategy consultant advising governments, not for profits, and corporates on a wide range of matters including climate, energy, human services, health, organisational leadership and design, governance and economic policy.