The Prime Minister announced yesterday that Martin Parkinson would be brought in from the cold after former PM Tony Abbott dumped him as Treasury secretary, and confirmed that Department of Communications secretary Drew Clarke would become the permanent chief of staff of Turnbull’s office. We wonder if Turnbull has had time to read Tingle’s latest Quarterly Essay, “Political Amnesia”. In it, Tingle writes that it’s only recently that the role of a Prime Minister’s chief of staff has come from a political rather than a public service background:

“Those with longer memories note two particular features of the offices of Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. Most notably, none of them opted for chiefs of staff with long bureaucratic experience. The point is not that public servants are the fount of all wisdom: it is that they know how the public service works and what it can, and can’t, do for you. Having a public servant running your office also implies a degree of respect for the institution of the public service, rather than the hostility that Tony Abbott and his office exuded, or even the unreasonable expectations put on it by Kevin Rudd; it suggests that you understand government is a lot larger than politicians alone. The most successful periods of the most successful, and lengthy, prime ministerships of recent times — those of Bob Hawke and John Howard — saw the Prime Minister’s office run by people with public service backgrounds, or on secondment from the public service. “

Peter Fray

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