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Public Sector Informant : PSI - October
ADELAIDE AUCKLAND BEIJING BRISBANE CANBERRA DARWIN GOLD COAST HONG KONG LONDON MELBOURNE PERTH SHANGHAI SYDNEY WELLINGTON www.minterellison.com Delivering on Complex Sensitive Projects BNE10 0117 Best ACT Professional Services Firm BRW Client Choice Awards Government Partnership Excellence Award - Victorian Schools PPP Infrastructure Oration & National Infrastructure Awards PPP Deal of the Year -- Victoria s Desalination Plant Infrastructure Journal (UK) Asia Paci c PPP Deal of the Year -- South East Queensland Schools Project Finance magazine Law Firm of the Year Australia and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) Innovative Use of Technology Award - constructionlawmadeeasy.com.au and liift platform Australasian Legal Business Law Awards National Work Life Balance Awards -- Business and Professional Services National Work Life Balance Awards -- Australian Government s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Lawyers Weekly Icon Awards -- Highly Commended Pro Bono Initiative Award Employer of Choice for Women citation Federal Government s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) Our people are recognised experts in their elds: 6 of our Canberra lawyers recognised in Best Lawyers 3 of our Canberra based lawyers recognised internationally 2 of our Canberra based partners are leading authors in their chosen elds balance excellence Injured at work? MBL11270_ct_psi Call your local Maurice Blackburn office. We have expertise in Comcare claims, permanent impairment claims and Administrative Appeals Tribunal applications for work related injuries or diseases. If you are a government employee and have been injured at work, call us today and we ll fight hard for the outcome you need to get on with your life. Your local office: Melbourne Building, 82 Alinga Street, Canberra We ll fight hard for the compensation you deserve. Call 1800 243 799 or visit mauriceblackburn.com.au [OCTOBER 2010] THE PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMANT 7 500 donors needed to ... support the local charity which helps the most disadvantaged babies, children and young people in the Canberra community. Select Galilee as your charity through Workplace Giving or make a one-off donation. A little money goes a long way! Galilee provides Foster Care, supports homeless young people, runs an alternative school for disadvantaged young people, develops life skills for teenagers, and trains volunteer Foster Carers. Ph: 6290 2191 www.galilee.org.au 10-12666/2 deserve their jobs secretary vacancies in the bureaucracy. to resist and ensure proper process. Indeed, it is not apparent that current procedures are much in need of further fortification but, as with secretary positions, it would be prudent to see that fixed-term appointments are kept to those positions where they are strictly necessary. Merit-based selection and protection from arbitrary dismissal are important elements in ensuring official advice to ministers is comprehensive, honest and helpful. These protections are insuf- ficient in themselves as the quality of advice can be diminished by: The desire of officials to avoid tension with ministers or even to be liked by them, thus causing advice to be more limited to the congenial. Ministers trying to restrict advice from officials to what they want to hear, including by having it filtered through ministerial staff. Officials believing so strongly in a particular policy line that they do not tell ministers about a fuller range of options that could be considered. While contemporary evidence is hard to come by, that available from cabinet archives suggests that these sorts of undesirable influences will play their part from time to time. In the end, much reliance is placed on the good sense of ministers insisting, in their self interest, they be provided with comprehensive and well-informed advice from the public service. Equally, the recruitment system for secretaries and senior offici- als must try to ensure that those selected are highly competent, principled and brave. It's difficult to tell if policy advising is now more or less politicised than it has been. It's consoling, however, to see the likes of the incoming government brief from the Treasury, which seems to have been well done. But if recent comments by the Auditor-General's office on briefing provided to former environment minister Peter Garrett on the ''green loans'' program are anything to go by, policy advising in some quarters may suffer from a more innocent problem: incompetence. If this is so, it's regrettable that the Gillard Government has withdrawn funding from Kevin Rudd's promised improve- ments to the public service; that money presumably now being spent on pork in marginal electorates. Finally, bad behaviour by officials -- leaking, coming to the aid of opposition members, and the like -- can make its own contribution to the politicisation of the public service. Nevertheless, it would seem that the unfortunate case of the senior Treasury official in the OzCar matter is uncommon and all sides of government and parliament should have learnt its hard lessons. It shouldn't be necessary to drum into senior officials that their primary loyalty is to the government of the day. If it is, then secretaries should be getting on with it and getting rid of those who are unprepared to behave properly. Politicisation in the APS will always be a risk but it is too often overplayed. Vigilance is needed, though the record of the Commonwealth is not like that in some state administrations and it is much better than in many overseas countries where politicisation is some- times institutionalised. In brief, Harris need not don the sackcloth and ashes in this cause for the APS. It has greater risks to cope with. Paddy Gourley is a former senior public servant. email@example.com
PSI - September