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9 October 2001
Mr Peter Beattie,
Premier of Queensland
You have been quoted as intending to lobby for a 'fair go' for Queensland in the coming federal election in relation to issues such as health, education, electricity prices and road funding (noting Franklin M. and Parnell S. "Beattie pushes 'fair go' barrow", Courier Mail, 6/10/01).
However your Government is guilty of hypocrisy - as it does not actually give people a fair go, if this is politically inconvenient, any more than its predecessors have done. And, as the evidence following this email shows, putting politics above the public interest for a decade has led to a virtual breakdown in Queensland's public administration.
There is nothing subtle about the hypocrisy to which I refer.
Your Chief of Staff had suggested, in reply to an email that I sent to all Members of the Legislative Assembly, that your Government is "committed to the application of public service employment practices that are not only based on merit, but are fair, reasonable and provide equal employment opportunities to all" and that the Office of Public Service Merit and Equity could respond to inquires about such issues (see my email of 24 July 2001 and his reply of 10 August 2001 which are accessible on-line).
Accordingly I drew the attention of that Office to a situation in which your Government's ideals had clearly not been met (see my letter of 13 August 2001).
- I had worked as a Queensland Public Servant for many years. During the 1980s this involved leading edge R&D on economic development - and this work resulted in a breakthrough in understanding development as a systemic issue, which is of major philosophical and practical importance;
- in the Goss Government's disgraceful attempt to 'reform' the Public Service in the early 1990s your Department refused me an interview for a position essentially the same as one I had successfully filled for a decade. This arose apparently because the political favourites who were permitted to manage 'reform' (a) were upset when I pointed out (discretely but correctly on the basis of experience with prior reforms) that the 'reform' methods they proposed using would produce an ineffectual Public Service, and also (b) allowed senior Public Service appointments to be made by persons who appeared to lack the knowledge and experience of technical and Queensland issues required to do so competently;
- when I lodged a grievance about not being interviewed, your Department would not allow professional merit to be considered in that grievance process, and then proceeded with my immediate involuntary retrenchment to prevent the grievance being pursued;
- a dispute about this personally damaging abuse of natural justice has been raised repeatedly over the years - and yet (a) I have NEVER been given a hearing by anyone capable of understanding the professional merit issues involved and (b) your department (and all other authorities) have refused to respond in any way to the question of real merit in senior Public Service appointments that this abuse raises. Moreover your Department has never sought to explain or justify its blatant refusal to allow professional merit to be considered.
This situation had been brought to your attention previously (eg see the detailed account in the Attachment to my letter dated 28 April 1999). And it is clearly incompatible with your Government's (alleged) ideals in relation to the Public Service - as expressed by your Chief of Staff .
It is one thing for political advisors and non-specialist public servants to be unable to understand the professional merit issues involved - as these are quite difficult. However NOTHING excuses your Department's refusal to allow me a hearing on the basis of merit - and its continued refusal to justify its decision to do so, and the failure of all the appeal processes that Queensland's system of public administration supports to exhibit any concern about this for the best part of a decade.
And 'backside-protecting' excuses are even less acceptable in view of the clear evidence now available (and outlined below) of (a) serious and growing difficulties that have afflicted the community as the result of the the adoption of weak economic strategies and tactics and (b) a steady breakdown in the effectiveness of public administration in Queensland which has been the result of the mismanagement of 'reform' and of the ongoing politicisation of the Public Service.
However the Office of Public Service Merit and Equity also has merely offered lame (and very tardy) excuses for not having to do anything that might challenge the professional credibility and career prospects of the the 'Labor mates' who were presumably responsible for the above situation (see that Office's letter of 28 September; and my comments on its excuses).
Thus I can only conclude that your Government's pretentiously-titled Office of Public Service Merit and Equity is merely designed to provide a veneer of professional respectability over a political Public Service that, in practice, is to remain founded on ineptitude and manifest injustice.
Evidence of the Breakdown of Public Administration in Queensland
Some evidence of this breakdown is available online in Queensland's Challenge which addresses (in summary and in some detail):
Ongoing evidence of the breakdown in effective administration is recorded in 'Queensland's Ongoing Challenge'. In particular this refers to:
Offsetting indicators of positive progress are comparatively few in number - and frequently need to be highly qualified (see Good News).
When combined with the virtual absence of any effective political opposition in Queensland or of capable independent research institutions to analyze the difficulties Queensland faces before they turn into crises, the above suggests a general failure of Queensland's system of government.
Representative democracy simply can not work without the support of a competent Public Service to provide a practical dimension in policy advice and implementation, and without strong institutions in civil society to provide relevant inputs for policy debate.