Presidents-elect have transition teams, but then they also have the luxury of a couple of months between their elections and swearing-in.

But with the polls the way they are, it’s not too early for us to start thinking out aloud of the likely make-up of the first Rudd ministry.

Rudd showed when he won the opposition leader’s job but had no implementation plan that he is a captive to the factional structure of the federal parliamentary Labor Party.

For all his talk about choosing his own ministers, he simply accepted the faction choices from Caucus, and tinkered at the edges with allocating portfolios (breaking, some say, pledges made during his leadership campaign).

There’s still some dead wood on the front bench. If Rudd gets to be prime minister, he will have a second but probably last chance to clear it away – the likes of Laurie Ferguson spring to mind.

Then there will be the issue of factional independents like Bob McMullan and Peter Garrett and what an influx of new boys and girls might do for their numbers.

Indeed, there will be new players – Combets and Shortens – with eyes on a place of their own.

In fact, if the polls stay the way they are, Rudd will need a ministry of 50 and a very active House of Representatives Committee system just to keep everyone out of trouble.

The selection of frontbenchers and parliamentary secretaries is tough enough, let alone any consideration of the positions they may hold. Yet there’s been no serious talk from within the ALP that any thought has been given to the administrative arrangements of a new government.

This should be straight up Rudd’s street given his old job in Queensland. But where’s the debate about the role of the public service and its structural suitability for the twenty first century?

It seems fair enough to say the vertical structures that have remained virtually the same for decades are costly and inefficient ways to run public administration.

The Coombes Royal Commission into Public Administration ran under Whitlam from 1974 and reported to Fraser in 1976, then the Review of Commonwealth Administration was done in 1982-83, but was supplanted by the new Hawke Labor government review and White Paper in 1983 that gave rise to the Public Service Reform Act of 1984. A Public Service review group made recommendations in 1994-95 that the Howard government largely implemented in the Public Service Act 1999.

But with the exception of Coombes, these focussed almost exclusively on operational matters. There has been little or no questioning or analysis of the over-arching structure of the bureaucracy, which has often been driven by the need to have “suitable” ministerial positions to be allocated to MPs in government rather than any requirement for better delivery of the outcomes sought.

Rudd should be giving serious consideration to these issues.

If beating the factions into line looks difficult, guaranteeing an efficient and effective public service might be even harder.

Original thought has scarcely been encouraged in the past 11 years – and while McKinsey’s would no doubt love to provide several volumes full of jargon, the likes of Coombe and Wilenski are now thin on the ground.

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Peter Fray

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