Feb 12, 2016

After years of decline, can the public service be rescued?

The federal public service is at a nadir of incompetence and politicisation. Will it improve under Malcolm Turnbull?

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Mike Pezzullo speaks to Senator Michaelia Cash in senate estimates

There are public service bungles, of various scales, under every government. No public administration is ever perfect, no matter the government. But the Australian public service, which once had a claim to being one of the world’s finest, has been undergoing a particularly difficult period.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

22 thoughts on “After years of decline, can the public service be rescued?

  1. graybul

    A timely review Bernard. Today, even use of the term “public servant” is a travesty. Department Heads who know not, or reject accountability to Parliament, the Australian people and a service culture, continue to degrade an essential role required of a strong, vital democratic Public Service.

  2. mr hump

    A don’t these people earn more than US Presidents?

  3. paddy

    Bloody good summary Bernard.

  4. Desmond Graham

    Bernard – you left out health etc also the eHealth – theBillion + up in smoke and insecure but still persisting and to make sure the defective program is used will penalise doctors who do not use it.

  5. pinkocommierat

    John Lloyd needs to go, also, but it seems to suit the government to have an unworkable IR policy and enormous gaps in remuneration between agencies.

  6. mikeb

    Is it possible that in some cases the PS heads are “encouraged” to come up with particular advice & actions by their political masters? It’s easy, for example, to imagine that treasury would be under pressure to provide favourable projections by the current govt to make their policies look better.

  7. Hunt Ian

    This sorry tale has much to do with the infantile idea that everything should be run as a business. Business downsizes all the time to cut costs, so the govern,eat bureaucracy should do the same. Squeezing more unpaid work out of public servants over time leads to the expected result: hurried and bungled advice. The next sill idea is behind the straightjacket that Turnbull has imposed on the budget: the commonwealth must get no more revenue because taxes are bad a “dead weight” on the ideal world, where allgoods and services are delivered by businesses or institutions that ape businesses.
    A lot of government spending and tax raising that funds are not a “dead weight” at all, of course, but can stimulate innovation, overcome underinvestment, provide a skilled workforce, services which no business wants to touch because they will not yield normal profits etc.

  8. klewso

    The “political service” surely?
    So eager to serve their political masters and cover their own arses as a consequence of that pursuit – the public interest is of sod all importance.

  9. AR

    There was a time, in the British tradition, (now defunct in the UK as well as Oz) of civil servants being assured of a modest but security of tenure as well as a separate oversight system.
    They were not only insulated from the government of the day but long out lasted them.
    As much damage as the Rodent did to this ethos, it was begun by PJK.

  10. klewso

    A return to “World’s Best Practice”? That would mean a lot more “woodcutter redundancies”?

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details