TOWARDS A PROFESSIONAL PUBLIC SERVICE FOR QUEENSLAND


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Letter

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13 August 2001

Ms Rachel Hunter,
Public Service Commissioner,
Office of Public Service Merit and Equity

Fairness in Public Service Appointments

This email arises from advice (by email dated 10/8/01) from the Premier's Chief of Staff Mr Rob Widdon, about the present Government's "commitment to the application of public service employment practices that are not only based on merit, but are fair, reasonable and provide equal employment opportunities for all". Mr Widdon also noted your ability to respond to any queries regarding his advice. 

In relation to the present Government's commitment to both merit and fairness in Public Service employment practices, I would appreciate information about your Office's ability to assist in resolving a long-standing dispute which arises from employment practices by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet under the Goss Government that were manifestly neither genuinely based on merit nor fair and reasonable - and which seriously disadvantaged me, and continue to do so.  

As noted in my response to Mr Widdon, which was forwarded to you separately, this arose because the politically favoured persons permitted to control the process of making an appointment had no real idea what relevant technical merit was, but were immensely threatened when this question was raised and grossly abused the power of their positions to conceal their ignorance. When they did so they were fully and unquestioningly supported by: the Department of the Premier and Cabinet; an Appeal process (which found that refusing to allow merit to be considered and involuntary retrenchment to prevent this being questioned were 'fair'); the then Public Sector Management Commission; individual ministers; the Government of the day; the indifference of Members of Parliament; and the force of an unjust law (which prevented appeals against SES appointments).  This reflects serious systemic difficulties in past employment practices and legislation - which the Deputy Ombudsman described as potentially allowing irresolvable injustices to arise (though his Office then failed to report the associated clear legislative defect to Parliament) and which another observer described in print as a test case of the Westminster tradition. 

At the time the Office of Public Service Merit and Equity was first established I wrote to your predecessor, Mr John Gralton, asking about the role of the Office (see letter dated 28 August 2000). However I received only the vaguest of replies. I wrote again on the 9 November 2000 in relation to evidence that was being presented to the Shepherdson Inquiry about a rorting culture in filling important positions that appeared to exist in the ALP's AWU faction which had been dominant under the Goss Government.

Details of the dispute, which I am seeking advice about your Office's potential to help resolve, were included with my letter to Mr Gralton of 28 August 2000, and are also available on-line from the web-site below by following links > Public Service Professionalism > Chronological List of Documents.

Regards

John Craig

Response

28 September 2001

I refer to your correspondence dated 19 September [[a reminder]] and your e-mail dated 13 August 2001 concerning a dispute about an employment decision affecting you.

I understand that your grievance about an employment decision dates back to 1992 and that you have received responses to your previous enquiries about this matter.

I decline to review the matter because of the age of the complaint, the fact that a number of previous reviews have already been conducted, and the absence of any feasible remedy that may be applied even if there was found to be merit in your claims.

I consider this matter to be finalised.

Yours sincerely

Rachel Hunter
Public Service Commissioner

Reply

4 October 2001

Ms Rachel Hunter,
Public Service Commissioner.

Fairness in Public Service Appointments (Your ref P3032:PA02:MER)

Thank you for your letter of 28 September 2001 (in relation to my email of 13 August 2001) which indicated your inability to help resolve my dispute with the Premierís Department.

Unfortunately you have been mis-informed if you have been told that there were ANY past responses to my inquiries about that Departmentís refusal to allow merit to be considered in a grievance about the making of a senior appointment. There have been many letters which carefully avoided mentioning this. But no one would be able to show you a response which addressed the undeniable fact of, or the reasons for, the Premierís Departmentís refusal to allow merit to be considered. Donít take my word for it - just challenge them to show you one!

I note your statement that you declined to review the matter because of its age, the conduct of prior reviews, and the absence of any feasible remedy if the claims had merit.

However I submit that your reasoning about this is faulty because:

  • the Departmentís failure to allow professional merit to be considered, and its refusal to explain or justify that damaging decision is a gross abuse of natural justice - which time canít remedy;
  • none of the alleged reviews - any more than the Premierís Departmentís original response to my grievance about the making a senior policy-R&D appointment - have ever evaluated, or been competent to evaluate, the question on the basis of professional merit;
  • those professional merit issues involved include breakthroughs in understanding of economic development as a systemic issue - which have profound philosophical and practical significance. The elapse of time (and Queenslandís dismal economic performance and worsening difficulties) makes them vastly more, rather than less, important;
  • the professional credibility of Queenslandís Public Service generally must remain suspect, so long as it remains a fact that merit has not been a necessary consideration in making senior appointments. And, given the increasingly obvious symptoms of the failure of public administration in this state, this situation must cause public disquiet;
  • there ARE feasible remedies in relation to this dispute - which were first set out in my letter of 26 May 1992 to the then Premier - for which (as was typical of the way the matter was handled) I did not even gain the courtesy of an acknowledgement. Those remedies were then drawn to the attention of his Director General on 6 October 1992, and restated on many other occasions (eg in my letter to Dr Glyn Davis of 10 July 1998 - a copy of which is available on the web through the ĎChronological List of Documentsí í referred to in my email of 13 August 2001).

I note also your fervent desire to Ďconsider the matter to be finalisedí. However all that you have done is to show that, despite the rhetoric about the lofty goals for which your Office was created, it can do no more than try to place a veneer of professional respectability over a political and de-skilled Public Service. Those who can understand the need for more fundamental remedies must clearly wait for at least one more turn of the wheel.

Yours faithfully

John Craig