Benjamin Franklin is celebrated as a scientist, publisher,
diplomat and democrat. He is commemorated for his moral and philosophical
contribution to the cause of the American independence from Britain.

Whistleblower Tony Kevin is a former career public servant –
and he has ruefully used one of Franklin’s maxims as a starting point to
describe the Commonwealth Public Service under John Howard: “If we do not hang
together, we will most assuredly hang separately.”

We should understand the rules of the government service
game – the system protects its own as long as they protect the system. That is the operating rule
now, for if anyone is penalised now for professional misconduct or out of
political expediency, those remaining are at greater risk because an embittered
person could leak. So no-one is jettisoned, as long as they all stick to the
rules of no unauthorised public comment that could even remotely be construed
as expressing regrets or questioning the rules.

What happens to those kinds of people – even the mildest of
dissidents – is instructive in itself – but that is another story.

This is how the Soviet bureaucracy worked. It is not
the way the Westminster system worked or was ever supposed to work – we were
supposed to have checks and balances. But we no longer have that system. We
have a Soviet-style nomenclature, where the roles of politicians and
administrators are indistinguishable, and blind loyalty is the performance
criterion that matters above all else.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey