CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

13 February 2006

Mr Peter Rumph
Director – Corporate Support and Events
IPAA Queensland

Politicisation of the Public Service - SIZZLING SUMMER SEMINAR!

My attention was drawn to IPAA's proposal for a summer seminar on "Politicisation of the Public Service".

Politicisation of the Public Service
~ have we remained frank and fearless ~

We hope to explore the weakening buffers in our public administration practices from political interference. This has been a "hot" topic for many years and was referred to and discussed in the Fitzgerald Report………….

"A system which provides the Executive Government with control over the careers of public officials adds enormously to the pressures upon those who are even moderately ambitious. Merit can be ignored, perceived disloyalty punished, and personal or political loyalties rewarded. Once there are signs that a government prefers its favourites (or that a particular minister does so) when vacancies occur, or other opportunities arise, the pressure upon those within the system becomes immense. More junior public servants rapidly become aware of the need to please politicians and senior officials who can help or damage their careers, and not to provoke displeasure by making embarrassing disclosures…One of the first casualties in such circumstances is the general quality of public administration. "- Fitzgerald Report 1989

Professor Ken Wiltshire will bring us up to date and share his perceptions on the factors currently contributing to the politicisation in the public sector environment. Steve Golding will enlighten us with the "inside" story as perceived by a former top ranking public servant.

...... [Details deleted] .....

Peter Rumph
Director – Corporate Support and Events

IPAA Queensland

The Voice and Spirit of the Public Sector

The IPAA is to be commended for this initiative, which (as your outline of the event noted) is long overdue.

However I should like to submit for IPAA's consideration that the primary consequence of political interference in public sector staffing is not the emergence of political bias or an unwillingness to provide 'frank and fearless' advice. Rather it is a dramatic decline in the competence of the Public Service to provide governments with good policy advice or practical support with policy implementation even when those involved try their hardest.

This basic point was made in 1999 by Professor Richard Mulgan in an article on 'Politicisation of senior appointments in the Australian public service' (see comments to Professor Mulgan on my web-site). It has also been made repeatedly for over a decade (eg see The Growing Case for a Professional Public Service which refers to extensive evidence, and many analyses, of the problem; and Chronological Summary which outlines the VERY large number of representations that have been made about this matter, and generally failed to generate even the slightest flicker of political interest).

I hope that the IPAA's seminar will be successful in finally raising understanding of these issues.


John Craig