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Letter + Supporting paper

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17 June 2002

Mr Alex Scott,
General Secretary,
Queensland Public Sector Union  

You are to be congratulated for pointing out the significance of the breakdown of the Westminster tradition in relation to current public concern about Ministerial bullying of Public Servants (as reported by Craig Johnstone, 'Driven to Distraction',  Courier Mail, 15/6/02).  

However making this connection is long overdue. The breakdown of the Westminster system has a 15 year history in Queensland and blatant politically bullying of the Public Service has been going on for almost as long.   

Moreover these practices have received passive support through the indifference of major Queensland institutions such as Parliament, the Ombudsman, the media, unions and professional societies. And the effectiveness of government administration in Queensland has collapsed to a very low level as a result.  

More details about the disgraceful history of political bullying of Queensland's Public Service (and its consequences) are outlined below.    

John Craig

Supporting paper Outline History of the Breakdown of the Westminster Tradition in Queensland and of the Growth of Public Service Bullying  

While the management of Queensland's Public Service had been fairly poor in the 1980s, the basic protection that the Public Service had received against political abuse (the Westminster tradition of a competent-independent-permanent civil service) was destroyed in the late 1980s and 1990s through:

  • the introduction of employment contracts for senior staff in the late 1980s;
  • Goss Government legislation enacted by Parliament which prevented appeals against senior appointments, which thus made it no longer necessary to take professional merit seriously in making such appointments;
  • the 'rape' of Queensland's Public Service by the Goss Government in the early 1990s (see further below);
  • the general lack of interest in a case which was seen as a test of the Westminster tradition (see McDermott P., `Tenure of Senior Queensland Public Servants', Australian Journal of Public Administration, March 1993);
  • bi-partisan support for politicisation of the Public Service (eg see Franklin M., 'Only four survive Beattie's reshuffle', Courier Mail, 17/4/99).

Bullying of the Public Service appeared to be the main accomplishment of the Goss Government. Towards Good Government in Queensland (1995) was a submission to the Labor Party about why this happened (the main cause being the inexperience of those who were allowed to control a 'reform' process) and about the damage done. This included (in Attachment A) the views of diverse observers about both the process and the results.   

Regarding the bullying of the Public Service under the Goss Government, it is noted that:

  • the dominant faction in the Goss Government was the AWU which:
    • had a rorting tradition for filling important political positions (according to evidence to the Shepherdson inquiry), a practice which reportedly extended to the Public Service to at least some extent (Griffith C., 'Inquiry told of jobs for the boys', Courier Mail, 12/10/00);   
    • had been investigated in relation to the apparent use of 'thuggish' internal practices for gaining and maintaining power - see Fifth Report of Commission Appointed to Inquire into the Activities of Particular Queensland Unions - Australian Workers Union of Employees - Vol 1 - July 1991, an inquiry which was closed early by the Goss Government;
  • transferring numerous Public Service staff to the (so called) 'Gulag' (where neither work nor facilities were available) became a public scandal at the time;
  • hidden manipulative practices were also applied (to the present author and many others) such as: Ministerial refusal to listen to anything which existing staff had to say; assigning staff to positions which did not suit their skills, so those skills could not be demonstrated; creating only one policy-related position until almost all persons with such skills had been eliminated at which stage a large policy group was created; and abusing natural justice by not allowing professional merit to be considered in relation to concerns about the process of filling of a senior position;
  • major Queensland institutions failed to take seriously the test-case of the Westminster system that was mentioned above. For example: 
    • the Electoral and Administrative Review Commission stated that the issues involved might be relevant in general terms, but that it could do nothing;
    • the Ombudsman's office concluded that legislation preventing appeals against senior appointments could potentially lead to injustices, but did not then report this clear legislative defect to Parliament;
    • the then State Public Service Federation took no action when the Public Sector Management Commission (PSMC) ignored its December 1994 request for an investigation of the matter;
    • members of Queensland's Parliament showed indifference to repeated representations over whether Queensland's Public Service was still a professionally capable organisation, and to a clear abuse of natural justice;
  • the Chairman of the PSMC reportedly publicly stated that bullying of the public service would no longer be necessary (Koch T., 'No more bullying of Queensland Public Service', Courier Mail, 29/7/95)

The Borbidge Government, which succeeded the Goss Government in 1995, did nothing that was really constructive about the gross abuses which had occurred or the dysfunctional state of Queensland's Public Service.    

On the election of the Beattie Government in 1998, there was a promise of a 'new deal' for the Public Service (in the new Premier's address to a mass gathering of staff, reported in Inside Premiers, 1 July 1998).  

But this undertaking was manifest nonsense (see for example: Crippling the Public Service Again (August 1998); Olsson K., 'Bullied public service fed-up', Courier Mail, 17/8/00; Hart M. 'Public service bullying by legislation', Courier Mail, 20/7/01; Franklin M. 'Sharp pitch to whistleblowers', Courier Mail, 8/12/01; and Mathieson S. 'Lawyers and public servants rated nastiest bosses', Courier Mail, 5/1/02).     

My web-site provides an account of numerous failures in Queensland's public administration which result in part from loss of support to the political system from a professionally competent Public Service. See for example:

Response #1 from Premier's Office

 17 June 2002

Thank you for your correspondence in relation to concerns about the Queensland Public Service. The Premier has requested that I respond on his behalf.

I understand that your complaint relates to an employment decision from 1992 and that there have been a number of enquiries into your grievance. In fact the Public Service Commissioner advised you on the 28 September 2001 that she had declined to reopen your complaint, for a number of reasons. I note that the Premier's Chief of Staff and Department Director General have also previously written to you in relation to the matter.

Taking into account these matters, there is nothing further I can add.

Richard Cleal
Acting Chief of Staff


 17 June 2002

Mr Richard Cleal
Acting Chief of Staff

Thank you for your restatement of the Premier's Office's inability to add anything to the decade-long refusal of the Premier's Department to allow my grievance to be properly investigated.

The fact none-the-less remains that:

  • the bullying of the Public Service which occurred in the early 1990s and subsequently was as described in my email;
  • in relation to my grievance, the Department of the Premier and Cabinet grossly abused natural justice through its refusal to allow professional merit to be considered. None of the alleged inquiries or responses in relation to this matter have been able to provide a credible explanation of why this was done, and in fact the Director General of the Department apparently recently indicated that he was happy to admit its inability to provide such an explanation;
  • it is impossible to prove the professional credibility of the Public Service when merit does not have to be a requirement in making senior appointments, or to subsequently imply professional credibility through a political dispensation on an edifice whose historical foundation was ineptitude and injustice;
  • the Public Service Commissioner's letter of 28 September 2001 quoted her reasons for not re-opening the complaint, namely its age; previous reviews of the matter; and the absence of any feasible remedies. My response of 4 October 2001, highlighted the facts that: despite its age the matter has been (and will continue to be) continuously pursued; she had been misled if she had been told that there had been ANY previous reviews or responses which even mentioned the actual subject of my dispute; and there are feasible remedies as first pointed out in my letter to the then Premier of 26 May 1992.

In relation to your statement concerning numerous prior enquiries and responses related to my dispute with the Premier's Department, I challenge you to identify a single one of these that has dealt with the Department's refusal to allow professional merit to be considered. Certainly, I have never seen one, nor (despite a vast quantity of waffle) have I been able to get any response out of the Department on this core of the dispute.

John Craig

Response #2 from Premier's Office

17 June 2002

Thank you for your correspondence of Monday 17 June 2002 concerning a response you received from the Acting Chief of Staff in relation to concerns you have raised regarding your previous employment in the Queensland Public Service.

Your correspondence has been noted.

Rob Whiddon
Chief of Staff