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10 July 1998
Dr Glyn Davis,
Acting Director General,
Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Further to earlier correspondence with two of your predecessors, I am writing to respectfully request action to end a dispute. The dispute arose in 1992 from the refusal of the then Department of the Premier, Economic and Trade Development (DPEDT) to allow merit to be considered in a grievance about the process of restructuring and re-staffing.
An Abuse of natural Justice
The circumstances which gave rise to that dispute are outlined in Attachment A. In brief:
This was a serious abuse of natural justice, which disadvantaged me and reduced my career prospects.
Queensland Suffered from such 'Bullying' of the Public Service
As restructuring and re-staffing of the Department of the Premier, Economic and Trade Development was not based on up-to-date understanding of technically difficult economic development policy, it resulted in an across-the-board erosion of the better capabilities to address this matter that were being created in the Department in the 1980s. This loss has never been recovered. Doing so would require several years free of political interference.
The issues involved in this dispute are important. It is now clear that attempts to develop Queensland's economy over the past decade did not create the capabilities required for universal prosperity. For example, this appears to be the major factor in the dissatisfaction which has led to the support gained by One Nation. This situation arose from a serious under-estimate of the community's economic challenge, and the use of poor methods. I drew this risk to the attention of Members of the Legislative Assembly, while pursuing this dispute as a private matter of natural justice.
Also the fall in government effectiveness due to 'reforms' after 1989 which did not build on existing capabilities, was pointed out to MLAs in my 1995 submission to the Labor Party's election review panel, Towards Good Government in Queensland. I had been (favourably) consulted by persons making arrangements for the then incoming administration, until it was realized that I was warning - justifiably as it turned out - that the enforcement of what were actually very simplistic theories would be unlikely to work in practice (for reasons given in that submission).
The Abuse of Natural Justice has not been Meaningfully Addressed
On 19 July 1995, I drew the attention of one of your predecessors, Mr Loftus Harris, to my letter of 6 October 1992 which had sought action to end this dispute (see below). I did not receive a reply. That letter had been a response to his predecessor's letter of 22 September 1992, in which Mr Eric Finger had refused to discuss the matters which I had raised in my letter of 23 August 1992. The latter had referred to various previous attempts (1/5/92 and 14/5/92) to gain reasons for the arbitrary decisions which had damaged me.
On 6 October 1992, I had repeated a request for action to end the dispute which had previously been made to the then Premier (on 26 May 1992). This requested that either:
As noted in my letter of 29 November 1995, Mr Harris's reply (of 27 November 1995) that the matter had already been fully discussed with me was ridiculous. If so, it would have been easy to comply with the spirit of the Judicial Review Act and provide the reasons I requested for the arbitrary and personally damaging decisions which had been made.
My Dispute was temporarily Suspended
In 1996, following the change in government, I suspended this dispute, when offered temporary employment with the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, because:
Requests to End this Dispute
I would prefer to use my talents to continue similar efforts. However my position was never made permanent - for reasons which were not clear. And I have now been told by Mr Steve Chapman, (Acting Director General, Department of State Development) that my temporary position will finish on 31/7/98. As the option of doing what I should like to do is thus being taken away, I must take the option which remains available.
I therefore again respectfully request the actions to end this dispute which were outlined above (ie in my letter to your predecessor of 6 October 1992, and previously to the then Premier on 26 May 1992). Should you chose the option of re-instatement from 8 May 1992, then compensation for loss of pay and benefits should take account of my period of temporary employment.
A meaningful response is also respectfully requested to the questions directed to your predecessors, and restated in my letter of 29 November 1995, namely:
I am drawing these requests to the attention of the Honourable the Premier, and to my local Member of the Legislative Assembly, Dr David Watson. I will not however draw the resumption of this dispute to the attention of other Members of the Legislative Assembly until after my temporary employment ceases on 31/7/98.
[Signed John Craig]
ATTACHMENT A - OUTLINE OF CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO DISPUTE
I had been employed for over 24 years in the Coordinator General's Department and later in the Premier's Department. During the first decade I was involved in administrative coordination at a senior level, and studied the subject in some depth. Over the decade to 1992 I engaged, with various others, in research and development at a high standard about economic policy options. This is supported by credible referees. For example:
Following the change in Government in 1989, I was initially (favourably) consulted by several of those making arrangements for the incoming administration, until I highlighted amateurism in the methods proposed for public sector reform and for economic development, as soon as this inadequacy became obvious.
For example, I argued to the effect that: administrative reform could not be effective if it did not build on existing capabilities; the political process can not competently judge technical merit in public service (which is why the latter's independence and permanence were crucial to effective Westminster style government); and that economic development (which involves learning by the whole economic system about relevant responses to changing conditions) is now necessary, and different to economic growth.
I and many others experienced autocratic methods through which many changes were made, and observed the apparent ignorance related to current economic development issues and techniques which was able to pass as policy advice to government.
The Public Sector Management Commission (PSMC) reviewed the Premier's Department and recommended an increased emphasis on economic policy issues (ie to promote development of the capabilities of the whole economy) and a reduced emphasis on major projects. Even though accepted by Cabinet the reverse was put into practice with the creation of 21 project management positions in the Economic Development Division, and only one related to policy issues. After filling positions on this basis, the Division was operationalised with a policy groups of seven persons. This manoeuvre squeezed out most of the staff whose dedicated public service (without any political affiliations) had created a pool of real economic development policy knowledge and expertise. It further reduced the potential rate, quality, sustainability and independence of economic growth, and biased outcomes towards foreign investors rather than the Queensland community.
I applied for the only policy development position available, but was not granted an interview. I was informed by the Executive Director of the Economic Development Division that there had been many higher quality applicants, but was provided with no evidence of this. As I had not been interviewed I lodged a grievance on the basis of: the quality of my prior work; the emergence of new and more difficult requirements for economic development; and the circumstances in the department which prevented these matters being appreciated. I had extensive documentary evidence, plus a panel of about 50 reputable and knowledgeable persons who could verify various aspects of my case.
The person appointed to investigate my grievance declared himself unable to assess on merit the issues on which my grievance was based.
After some debate about terms of reference for this grievance, the Premier's Department decided that substantive matters related to best professional practice could not be considered. Investigations would be limited to procedural matters. This decision was clearly arbitrary as Ms Jennifer Norton (PSMC Grievance Director) originally stated that substantive questions could (under some circumstances) be considered. The effect of this decision was to exclude those aspects which made my case watertight, rather than merely strong. Written requests for an explanation of the decision were ignored.
As I was seeking means for review of this arbitrary decision, I was informed that it was intended to proceed with my immediate retrenchment (which would eliminate my right to an investigation of the grievance). This was based on the view that a redundancy process (resulting from my failure to gain the position about which the grievance was raised) was quite independent of the grievance process. If I was conveniently retrenched before the grievance was resolved this was just too bad. I had noted in writing an inevitable link which existed between the grievance and the redundancy process because of my inability to act on the latter without compromising the former. This had also been ignored.
In the face of arrangements made for immediate retrenchment (ie it had already been approved for 8 May 1992 by the Governor in Council), a Fair treatment Appeal was held under rushed circumstances which: prejudiced the likely outcome; breached PSMC procedural guidelines; and impeded my ability to prepare a case or obtain representation. The appeal sought to gain time for the grievance to be resolved before redundancy proceedings were undertaken, and a finding that there might characteristics in the grievance process which sometimes prevented fair and just treatment. The appeal was dismissed. In the process the Tribunal appeared to accept the Department's view that my grievance itself was invalid (even though this was agreed to be 'off limits' and no evidence was presented). The findings further failed to comment on most of the difficult and unresolved questions on which my appeal was based, and appear arbitrary because of the lack of any clear reasons for them. The Chair of the PSMC refused repeated requests to consider these concerns about the Fair Treatment Appeal.
As a result of this dispute, two requests were made to the then Premier to initiate action to look into the dispute, neither of which were ever acknowledged.
A case study was submitted to Electoral and Administrative Review Commission (EARC) because of that Commission's brief to examine merit appeal. The Fitzgerald Inquiry had expressed concern about the absence of general mechanisms for review of administrative decisions on their merit (Section 3.4); and the 'incestuous' process for giving advice which becomes like confirming opinions rather than challenging them (Section 3.5.1). Beyond acknowledging that the case study might be relevant to merit appeal in general terms, I was informed that there was nothing EARC could do.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations also examined this matter, and found that it would have been anomalous for a grievance to be investigated on the basis of merit, as there was no basis for merit appeal in relation to Senior Executive Service appointments. The Deputy Parliamentary Commissioner also concluded that existing arrangements potentially allowed injustices to occur, which could not be resolved.
At no stage in the whole process did I encounter anyone either willing or able to assess what constitutes real merit in the substantive policy area for which I initially applied for a senior policy innovation and development position. Any claim that senior level staffing in the Queensland Government had been based on merit in the early 1990s is clearly false.