Sep 19, 2013

Welcome to Washminster: APS sackings send a long-term signal

Memo to public servants: if you ever serve Labor enthusiastically, you may be sacked under a Coalition government. That's the message from Tony Abbott's sacking of APS chiefs yesterday.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

If you do the numbers, technically, the Coalition has grown more spiteful toward the public service since 1996. Then, they sacked six secretaries after 13 years of Labor government. This time around, after six years of Labor, they sacked three, and another two have been told to start packing their stuff or — in the case of AusAID’s Peter Baxter — take a really long holiday.

In the government’s defence, however, Innovation Secretary Don Russell couldn’t have stayed, no matter his talent, independence and diligence: he was Paul Keating’s principal advisor, and left his role as ambassador to the United States early to return and help Keating in the lead-up to the 1996 election. Abbott was entirely justified in telling him he couldn’t remain in the most senior councils of his government.

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17 thoughts on “Welcome to Washminster: APS sackings send a long-term signal

  1. Gavin Moodie

    I agree. Does the politicisation extend beyond the public service to business, ngos and quangos which should expect discretionary government support only if they support the party currently in power?

  2. klewso

    If you don’t like the message you’re getting from one source (it doesn’t matter if they’re right), get rid of them and get someone you can trust to tell you what you want to hear?
    It worked for Howard when he had those fire-walls installed for “Children Overboard”.

  3. klewso

    When are they bringing back Godwin Grech to head Treasury – “for services rended”?
    And will Kathy Jackson get a jumper for ditto?

  4. klewso

    This, too, is the side that knifed Bob Halverson for being too impartial a Speaker – and he was one of theirs.


    Get real – it’s not uncommon whenever there’s a change of CEO in large companies – new CEOs often bring people they know and trust (remember Sol Trujillo and his Three Amigos), and it’s also part of the “I’m a new broom, and you can see that I’m sweeping”. A CEO I worked for made all his Executive Team sign an undated letter of resignation, which helped him keep them compliant – and then if one upset him, he’d date the letter and “reluctantly” accept it… And that was one of his nice qualities!

  6. Gavin Moodie

    I’m happy to believe that the ceos of private companies recruit and fire on personalities, but that shouldn’t set a standard for the public sector. Do private ceos also hire and fire on ideological grounds, as seems to be the case with Abbott?

  7. Richard

    JRAPQQ: weak analogy. Are you aware of the history/role of the public service? Hint: it’s pretty different to that of private entities.

  8. CML

    Let the rAbbott government get on with their partisan, vindictive nonsense. When they have no one left to tell them the truth, it will all come crashing down around their ears.
    Can’t wait! The sooner the better, I say.
    Bernard, I don’t agree with you that the Labor Party should get down in the gutter to match these lunatics. We need a ‘grown-up’ government, and this one is NOT it!

  9. Andybob

    Unfortunately we do not have the talent pool available in America to reconstitute the upper reaches of the public service upon each change of administration. But Labor cannot afford to be the only one not doing it.

  10. klewso

    [“Shrek to tame the Monk”? Remember how “Gummy Bear” Costello stood up to Howard’s financial “money for votes” profligacy?]

    How can one side win government if they don’t do what works?
    This sort of language is all the Coal-ition seems to understand – they’ve dragged it into this gutter, to win. Only by experiencing what they put others through, will they realise that “born to rule” is not one, and what they’ve done.

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