CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

30 January 2004

Email to ...
Mr Craig Johnstone,
c/- The Courier Mail

State Elections and the Influence of the Queensland Public Service - A Reality Check

I should like to thank you for your article about the influence of Queensland's Public Service on state elections ('Vengeful workforce a recipe for disaster', Courier Mail, 27/1/04), as it raises some very important questions.

In particular you suggested that:

However your description of the cause of the Public Service's earlier electoral reaction seems likely to be quite wrong.

Queensland's public service had NOT been merely conservative before the 'shake-up', and the shake-up administered was anything but 'good' - for reasons which are presented in more detail below. A term that better captures the essence of what happened under the Goss Government is 'rape' - and a desire for vengeance against a rapist, while perhaps un-Christian, is at least understandable.

While I have no political expertise, it seems to me (for reasons detailed below) that, though Queensland's Public Service has continued the decline that was started by its 'rape', a protest vote might not be factor in 2004 because of apathy, 'bribery' and a lack of any positive alternative.


Public Service Conservatism?

Queensland's Public Service prior to its 'shake-up' under the Goss Government had had conservative elements. And this was appropriate because every organisation needs (a) people who are happiest with routine jobs and (b) a diversity of viewpoints. But it also had progressive elements.

Moreover the public sector had been through extensive reforms during the 1980s with similar goals to those of the Goss Government in 1989. Moreover progressive elements in the Public Service had themselves personally developed, or endorsed, much of the reform agenda. Thus the goals which the reform agenda addressed were widely accepted by the public sector as a whole. All that would have been required was to encourage the Public Service to see itself as part of `the solution'.

However the potential for progress which existed was destroyed by the undeclared decision of the incoming Goss administration to over-ride the protection of the Westminster tradition of an apolitical professional Public Service in the hope of a `quick fix' to the public sector, as it was naively seen as the main problem. The result was that the Public Service was persecuted for prior problems, rather than being allowed to help in solving them in a realistic way (see also Section 5 of Towards Good Government in Queensland).

The Shake-up was not 'Good'

It is easy to tell when a shake-up is 'good'. However you are not having a 'good' shake-up (despite the opinions of an unrealistic media) when:

And this 'not-good shake-up' started a decay in Queensland's system of government which has continued to the present (see The Growing Case for a Professional Public Service - noting particularly the evidence quoted of administrative dysfunctions).

Why no 2004 Protest Vote

A protest vote seems futile in 2004 even thought the situation in the Public Service is bad.

The main reason for this is apathy. The situation has been bad for years (see Anecdotes, History of the Breakdown of the Westminster Tradition and the Growth of Public Service Bullying, and About the Review of Public Sector Enterprise Bargaining), and:

Moreover, some 'bribery' was applied in the form of meeting Enterprise Bargaining claims (even though it had previously been claimed, perhaps rightly, that Queensland's tight financial situation did not really permit them to be met - see Growing Pressure for Increased State Taxation).