CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

28 September 1998

To Members of the Legislative Assembly

I refer again to my letters of 4/8/98, 25/8/98 and 1/9/98, about the need for competence (rather than political opportunism) in the senior Public Service, and concerning a dispute I was forced to resume about the Premier's Department's refusal to allow merit to be considered in senior staff selection in the early 1990s.

Worth the Effort: Several MLAs responded to my previous letters, pointing out that they are overloaded with work. I apologize for adding to this. However Government and economic affairs have not been going well, and my submissions are an attempt to explain why. If the problem were easy, a solution would already have been found.

Relevance: The issues raised in my letters are of direct relevance to the ability of MLAs (who select the government executive) to thereby meet community expectations. For example:

For example: On four occasions, 'beginners' have produced Queensland economic strategies in secret after consultation - rather than allowing enterprising community participation. This ensured good press releases, and that such strategies failed to create the capabilities required for prosperity. And new 'beginners', who had thus been given no real chance to understand the problem, constantly emerged asking political leaders to let them repeat the process.

Cain allowed ministers to replace senior administrators with inexperienced university staff. His Government was seen as like no other in following theories supported by party factions, with growing gaps to the public service. The nature of what was happening was only slowly recognised by the public because of centralised media liaison (see Attachment C of Towards Good Government in Queensland - with letter of 25/8/98)

And, in the early 1990s, similar Public Service de-skilling and media manipulation damaged Queensland also. Experienced public servants could immediately see problems with proposed 'reforms'. - but the public had no way to do so until years later - after services were affected. On the basis of 25 years experience and study of economic and public sector development, I anticipated (and wrote) in 1990 that proposed reform methods would not be effective. I also wrote to MLAs from 1993-1995 arguing that the approach to development of the economy would not be adequate.

Commonwealth Governments have also lost credibility due to reducing administrative competence, through politically driven 'reform'.

Queensland's Government needs the support of a competent Public Service. It will not get this by paying a lot more to senior officials who meet only political criteria for 'merit' (Owen, 'Beattie offers big bucks to lure top bureaucrats', Australian, 31/7/98). Competence will only be restored by depoliticising the Public Service, and allowing real senior management to re-develop over time on the basis of experience and relevant knowledge.

De-politicise the Public Service: I had made very significant progress in understanding economic development as a systemic issue (see theory in Section 4(g) of Assessing the Implications of Pauline Hanson's One Nation - with letter of 25/8/98). This offers practical (though not yet widely understood) benefits. Despite this, politically driven 'reform' had so deskilled the (so called) 'Senior' Executive Service that its previously emerging ability to make use of such work was lost by 1992, and has not yet recovered. This caused my dispute with the Premier's Department, when it refused to allow merit to be considered in a grievance about senior staff selection.

In considering this, the Deputy Ombudsman concluded that irresolvable injustices were possible under procedures in place in 1992. It is incredible that such things could happen in Queensland, but the fact that they have occurred is a symptom - and contributory cause - of a serious breakdown in our system of government.

Progress? The Premier's Office has now indicated that it has nothing to add to his Department's letter of 26/8/98, in which the latter refused to deal with my dispute, eg to give reasons for explicitly excluding merit from consideration in staff selection, or to suggest how a person in my situation was then expected to get fair and just treatment.

Apparently the 'paper shufflers' still can not see the connection between the low credibility of Queensland's senior public service at present, and the fact that merit has not had to be considered in senior appointments. I would have thought that it was obvious.

That is why my submissions are worth looking at in the depth their difficulty requires, and why the Department of the Premier and Cabinet must not be allowed escape from accountability for its actions. My dispute encapsulates issues MLAs must now 'get on top of' if the Parliament is to ensure that government executives meet community expectations. In fact, it may be the only method now available to reverse ongoing public service decline through politicisation. My case is not the only (or the worst) abuse of power, but it is the only one I am aware of where this can be easily proven - if the case is considered on merit.

[Signed John Craig]