CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

13 October 2006

Hon Mr. Kim Beazley, MP
Leader of the Federal ALP

Rebuilding the Public Service??

I noted with interest your proposal for long-overdue reform of the Commonwealth public service.

My interpretation of an article in which you were quoted: Opposition leader, Kim Beazley, has pledged to rebuild and restore trust in a ‘cowed’ public service after a decade of it being trampled on by the Howard Government. He promised a new era of accountability and accused government of promoting a culture of cover-up. Echoing the PM’s pledges before the 1996 election, he promised to: boost FOI arrangements; reform political donation laws; and ensure that public service appointments are based on merit. (Maiden S., ‘ALP to rebuild public service’, Australian, 4/10/06).

While I wish you well in pursuing such a goal, there is unfortunately little credibility in what you are suggesting, because governments of all political persuasions have systemically abused public services for more than two decades. And, while oppositions routinely promise 'reform', they then do not actually do anything significantly different if they gain power. For example:

If the ALP wants to demonstrate sincerity in relation to what you are proposing, it does not need to wait until after a federal election. ALP governments have control of state administrations and, at least in Queensland and probably elsewhere, have a record of abusing political power that is as bad as that of federal governments (see The Growing Case for a Professional Public Service).

Until there is serious effort to correct abuses in state administrations, I am afraid that the ALP's worthy reform proposal will suffer a huge credibility gap.


John Craig