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20 April 2005
Dr William Wilkie
Professor Con Aroney
I noted a recent report concerning your views about public sector bullying - and would like to provide a little feedback.
My interpretation of a recent article: Bullying has reached epidemic proportions - and public service bosses view it as a management technique - according to a Brisbane psychologist (Dr William Wilkie). Anti-bullying legislation has done little to stop it. Professor Con Aroney (ex director of Prince Charles Hospital) argued that bullying culture started at the top and that premier and Health Minister were responsible for problems in the Health Department (Alexander M., 'Plague of bullies', Sunday Mail, 17/4/05).
The problem of bullying in Queensland's public sector is nothing new. An attempt to outline the history of the growth of public service bullying (and its relationship with the breakdown of the Westminster tradition) is on my web-site.
This suggests that the core of the problem is the lack of any serious requirements to consider professional merit in making 'senior' Public Service appointment - a situation which has prevailed for many years (see Ombudsman's reasons for an explanation of why it has not been really necessary to take professional competence into account).
'Senior' officials, who lack professional credibility with their subordinates: (a) feel threatened by subordinates with technical skills and (b) are virtually forced to use bullying as a management technique.
It has recently been suggested to me that, in a Department which has not been mentioned in the press in this regard, the level of bullying of subordinates (those with any significant length of experience or depth of knowledge) has grown to 'almost frightening' proportions.
Indicators of the type of dysfunctions which plague Queensland's system of public administration (not only the Health Department) partly as a result of the lack of requirement for professional merit in 'senior' appointments are outlined in The Growing Case for a Professional Public Service. This includes an account of why the political system (even with the best of intentions) is unable unaided to recognise the types of abilities needed to confer professional credibility on 'senior' officials.
I would be interested in your reactions to my speculations.