CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary
Letter + Attachment

See also

15 November 2001

Dr Leo Keliher,
Director General,
Premier's Department

Congratulations on your recent appointment - though for reasons that will become obvious I fear that you may have been passed a poisoned chalice.

I am writing to enquire whether you have been granted more authority than your predecessor to take action to restore professional credibility to the Public Service. Two requests that I made to Dr Davis, that he resolve a long standing dispute with the Premier's Department about its blatant refusal to allow merit to be considered in relation to the making of a senior appointment, encountered a claimed lack of authority to do so.

Moreover subsequent enquiries to the Public Service Commissioner, at the suggestion of the Premier's Chief of Staff, have shown that she also is unable to deal with the matter.

A background outline of the situation is presented for your information as an Attachment to this letter. It deals with: the origin and implications of the dispute; a speculation about why the dispute arose; and the inability senior officials to resolve the dispute despite evidence that professionalism in the Public Service is belatedly again being seen to be needed.

The remedies I am seeking remain as re-stated in a letter of 10/7/98 that was referred to in the Attachment (ie in brief):

  • either (a) acknowledgement by your Department that the treatment I received was unjust, unfair and damaging or (b) reinstatement from 8/5/92 without loss of pay or benefits so that my earlier grievance can be properly investigated; and
  • a statement of your Department's reasons for not allowing merit to be considered in the investigation of the above grievance (concerning which the Attachment hereto outlines my current impression), and an explanation of how a person in my situation was expected to gain fair and just treatment.

I await with as much patience as is necessary a favourable decision by your Department to put an end to this shameful episode in its history.

If it is beyond your authority also to deal with this dispute, then I would appreciate your advice about who does have enough authority so that I can contact them about this matter.

Yours faithfully

John Craig



Origin and Implications of this Dispute

The circumstances and history of the dispute were outlined in a letter of 10/7/98 to Dr Glynn Davis and particularly in its Attachment. The latter has since been brought further up to date in the attachment to a letter to Mr Beattie and Mr Borbidge of 28/4/99.

As you will note the latter account mentions in passing your own innocent role in the process - involving a review of aspects of the Premier's Department for the then PSMC.

The merit issues that the Premier's Department would not allow to be considered, in making a senior research and development appointment in its Economic Development Division, are complex (see discussion below). But refusing to allow them to be raised cost Queensland dearly (see Defects in Economic Tactics, Strategy and Outcomes).

The ongoing implications of this dispute are that:

  • I was subjected to a gross abuse of natural justice - through the Premier's Department's refusal to give me a fair hearing which took account of professional merit.

Regarding this denial of a hearing, I note that under the Goss administration (a) there was never able to be any serious discussion of technical issues at staff meetings in its new Economic Development Division (b) staff were assigned to positions which did not allow their talents to be demonstrated (c) the process of staffing was manipulated to squeeze out existing staff (eg by only initially creating one policy position) (d) I was not interviewed for the only relevant position initially created - a position that was almost identical to the role I had successfully played for a decade (e) when a grievance was lodged about this, the Department first appointed an investigator who later declared himself unable to assess the matter on merit, and when this occurred the Department refused to allow merit to be considered (f) the Premier's Department then arranged for my involuntary retrenchment - before this grievance had been resolved - and thus prevented it being pursued (f) a hasty Fair Treatment Appeal found (in effect and without giving any meaningful reasons) that refusing to consider merit in, and involuntary retrenchment to pre-empt, the grievance process, were fair (h) the then Public Service Management Commission stated that I had been fairly treated (because the formality of a Fair Treatment Appeal had been observed) (i) the Ombudsman (in a letter which confused different appeal processes) found that it would have been legally anomalous for merit to be considered because Parliament had legislated to prevent merit appeals against SES appointments - a situation which, the Deputy Ombudsman verbally noted, potentially allowed irresolvable injustices (j) several requests to the then Premier for action to look into this matter were not even acknowledged and (k) repeated representations to MLAs over subsequent years revealed that they generally had no interest in whether Public Service appointments were based on merit, or whether the Public Service was competent.

  • this abuse has seriously damaged my career, and my family's prospects;
  • the Public Service must now lack professional credibility as (a) any claims that merit had to be considered in senior 1990s' appointments are clearly false and (b) 'senior' staff then installed have strongly influenced junior and later appointments and (c) the problem has thus perpetuated itself and resulted in administrative failures (as discussed below).

Furthermore Queensland's 'Smart State' pretensions can be nothing but a sick joke.

Why this Dispute Arose - A Speculation

It is my reasonable belief the Premier's Department did not interview me for the only policy R&D position initially created in its (early 1990's) Economic Development Division because:

  • I had been sidelined after 'blowing the whistle' in early 1989 on apparent yakuza involvement in the background to Japan's Multi-function-polis proposal - which implied their involvement in other investments which the Premier's Department was facilitating.
  • I had discretely put forward advice that the 'reform' methods that the Goss Government proposed to use after 1989 were not likely to produce a capable Public Service (ie starting again from scratch by across-the-board restructuring and re-staffing was foolish)

Advice: This May 1990 advice is outlined in Attachment B of Towards Good Government in Queensland. It suggested that it was vital to build on existing competencies, and was based on (a) a 20 year commitment to real administrative and economic development (b) prior observation and study of effective and ineffective change processes and (c) concern about probable loss of effective government (from which Queensland now suffers).

  • the purpose of 'reform' in the early 1990s was to build political compliance in the Public Service - rather than professional competence. For example, unquestioning compliance was consistent with Legislation enacted to prevent appeals against SES appointments, and was in line with the reported culture of the ALP's then-dominant AWU faction in filling important political positions (as revealed by evidence to the Shepherdson Inquiry).

Analysis: the process of building 'compliance' is outlined in Towards Good Government in Queensland,. Another observer suggested reform could have been just to put in a 'political fix' - see Prasser S., 'The Need for Reform in Queensland', in Hede A., Prasser S., and Nylan N. Keeping them Honest: Democratic Reform in Queensland, UofQ Press, 1992).

  • I had submitted a discussion paper highlighting the adverse effects of politicisation (ie compliance rather than providing professional advice) to a Premier's Department workshop in July 1990 ('Politicisation of the Public Service: Some Objections').

An aside: at some financial cost, I had taken a similar stand in the late 1980s on the need for independence and professionalism when employment contracts for Public Servants were first introduced by a National Party Government

  • there was no realistic professional ability in the Premier's Department after its (alleged) 'reform' to assess the merits of a technical breakthrough I had previously achieved in understanding economic development as a systemic issue - though the latter is of immense practical, theoretical and philosophical importance.

The breakthrough is described in Transforming the Tortoise. This involved recognition that knowledge (which is the key factor in economic growth and productivity) has this impact because, in both economic development and innovation, it changes the causal relationships within social and economic systems (rather than being an input to a production functions as new growth theory asserts). This understanding is outside the paradigm of mainstream economics which seeks to be a 'positive science'. The practical significance of this is outlined in Defects in Economic Tactics, Strategy and Outcomes.

The Premier's Department's main reason for then not allowing merit to be considered in the grievance I raised about this situation was that, as a consequence of a poorly conceived and incompetently managed 'reform' process, the Department would have been severely embarrassed if professional merit about this had been allowed to be considered.

Professionalism does matter

You might be aware that, belatedly, there is a growing public debate and concern about the loss of competence from Public Services due to changes that have been made over the past decade - in Queensland and elsewhere. Evidence of this is outlined in The Growing Case for a Professional Public Service. This evidence also refers to increasing calls for restoration of Public Service professionalism.

A professionally competent Public Service is a vital partner in ensuring the effectiveness and credibility of a system of representative democracy as the business of government is too complex for the political system to know and control everything. This is well illustrated by a press report earlier this year:

(The Premier) "had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table of accountability. Reporters from all types of organizations have been asking about (the Brisbane footbridge) for months, only to be told everything was alright. The situation became ridiculous ... when (it was claimed) a key reason for delays was wet weather which had stopped progress on construction. A quick check ... revealed SE Queensland had experienced low rainfall for about 18 months. Challenged with this information (the Premier) realised he had backed a loser and quickly changed tack, saying the delays were more about design and engineering concerns than rain. He looked like a fool. Apparently (Ministers) simply believed whatever bureaucrat or contractor told them about rain delays..... Peter Beattie hates it when anyone suggests he might fall victim to arrogance. He should remember two words - Wayne Goss. Goss won a handy 1992 election victory and held the highest popularity ratings in the state ... By 1995, with a reputation for arrogance, Goss was political dogmeat" (Franklin M. 'Secret bridge business', Courier Mail, 29/5/01)

However it is not feasible to restore the professionalism and credibility of the Queensland Public Service on its current foundation of past disregard for merit and unresolved injustices.

The Lack of Relevant Authority

Despite this, the authority and ability to overcome this problem has not been available, eg:

  • on 10 July 1998, I asked Dr Glynn Davis to take action to resolve the above dispute. In a reply (dated 26/8/98) Dr Davis firstly indicated that he lacked the authority to look into such matters and then provided a lot of information that had nothing to do with it; and
  • on 6 October 2000, I asked that he reconsider this response - given allegations to the Shepherdson Inquiry about a rorting culture in relation to filling important political positions in the ALP's AWU faction, the faction that had dominated the Premier's Department when the latter refused to allow merit to be considered in relation to filling a Public Service position. Again Dr Davis replied that he lacked the authority to do so.

In August 2001 the Premier's Chief of Staff wrote to me claiming that it was the present Government's intention that 'public service employment practices are not only based on merit, but are fair, reasonable and provide equal employment opportunities to all'. At his suggestion I then wrote to the Public Service Commissioner, Ms Rachel Hunter (13/8/01). Unfortunately she also was unable to deal with the matter - a fact that suggested that the Government's claims are mere hypocrisy, for reasons outlined in my email to the Premier of 9 October 2001.

Response #1 -

See also Reply #1


Dear Mr Craig,

The Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Dr Leo Keliher, has asked me to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 15 November 2001.

Yours sincerely

George O'Farrell
Executive Director

Reply #1

See also Response #2

5 December 2001

Dr Leo Keliher,
Director General,
Premier's Department

I refer to the acknowledgement of my letter to you dated 15 November 2001 which George O'Farrell (an Executive Director) forwarded on 26 November. His letter did not suggest that your Department would be able to provide any substantive reply to the matters I raised.

Given this (and in the absence of any substantive reply in the next 7 days) then I will presume that your Department now finally accepts that:

  • it could not provide any credible justification for its refusal to allow merit to be considered in relation to the grievance I raised in the early 1990s about the making of a senior appointment - which has been the subject of my ongoing dispute with your Department;
  • professional merit was not allowed to be considered because your Department would, for reasons outlined below, have been severely embarrassed if merit had been considered;
  • the reason that I was not interviewed for the senior policy R&D position in your Department (the event which gave rise to the above grievance) included one or all of:
    • my blowing the whistle in 1989 on the (security and other) implications of a probable yakuza role in a major project for which I had earlier been responsible for concept development - which implied their probable involvement in other projects the Department was facilitating;
    • my informal advice that the Goss Government's reform of the Public Service should build on existing competencies and operations - rather than being undertaken in isolation from them;
    • the fact that the goal of 'reform' under the Goss Government was to create a politically-compliant (rather than a professionally-competent) Public Service;
    • the discussion paper I produced on the adverse effects of politicising the Public Service;
    • the lack of real professional ability in the Department after its 'reform' to comprehend my technical breakthrough in understanding economic development as a systemic issue.
  • there was no way that a person in my situation could gain fair and just treatment given your Department's attitude and the processes in place for Public Service staffing. Thus the treatment I received from your Department was unfair, unjust and damaging.

If your Department continues to be unable to contest these points, then you will, in effect, also be acknowledging that it is no longer possible to pretend that Queensland's Public Service should be seen as a professionally credible entity.

I understand that the Queensland Council of Professions has recently accepted that Public Service professionalism needs attention (on the basis of the evidence in a submission about professionalism and other matters). Your Department's inability to justify its behaviour in my case is simply further confirmation of this problem.

John Craig

Response #2


Dear Mr Craig,

The Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Dr Leo Keliher, has asked me to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 5 December 2001.

The issues you raise have been dealt with to the Department's satisfaction.

Yours sincerely

George O'Farrell
Executive Director

Reply #2

18 December 2001

Dr Leo Keliher,
Director General,
Premier's Department

I refer to a response from George O'Farrell (17 December) to my letter of 5 December in which I had suggested likely reasons for your Department's behaviour in the early 1990s, and the implications of that behaviour for the professional credibility of the Public Service.

Unfortunately his reply was ambiguous, as it could be interpreted as expressing either:

  • your Department's satisfaction with the way my letter of 5 December dealt with those issues; or
  • your Department's satisfaction with its disgraceful behaviour, and the way in which this necessarily undermines the professional credibility of the Public Service.

However in reality I don't suppose that it matters much which interpretation was intended.

John Craig