Liberal member for the South Australian state seat of Bright David Speirs is not super keen on public servants, using a speech in state Parliament on Wednesday to let everyone know what he thought of them — and of political SA news website InDaily.
The rookie MP, who jumped into Parliament from a public service job in the Premier’s Department, was keen to assure anyone listening that he totally supported most of the public service.
“However, I also group a large proportion of the hidden public service workforce (the background bureaucracy) as being an important part of the engine room of our state,” he said.
“Advisers. Latin name: Adviserous Horribilis. Usually underqualified and overly confident, largely aged 25 to 35, characterised by having the log-in details of multiple fake Twitter accounts stored in the notes section of their iPhones. Their habitat is a murky half-world, a purgatory somewhere between public service and political office.
“They read InDaily, drink at small bars, enjoy fatty and sugary foods and have the physical characteristics associated with enjoying fatty and sugary foods. Chameleon-like, they have the unique ability to change their skins, depending on the location of the safe seat they aspire to represent. They often interbreed, leading to a reduced gene pool, and are loved only by their mothers.
“While their day-to-day habitats tend to be open plan offices, enabling them to throw foam footballs to one another, every fortnight or so on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays they congregate in the shadowy benches of the Speaker’s gallery to watch their favourite sport: question time.
“They are for sure an interesting pest, an overabundant species, to use the latest vernacular from the environment department, and as observers of the environment department would know, whether it is corellas or fur seals, this government is loathe to deal with overabundant creatures.”
He said the number of political advisers should be slashed, because they added little value with their advice.
“They will make changes for the sake of change, just to justify their existence and remind themselves that despite having dropped out of the arts degree to concentrate on student politics, they are geniuses, masters of political strategy, and so they tell themselves 100 times a day that they are normal, emphasis on that very subjective word ‘normal’, and lucky to have landed jobs serving the good folk of South Australia.”
Speirs made several allegations — without naming anyone — about advisers being appointed to plum public service positions, and the independence of the public service being eroded.
“Public servants take direct instruction from chiefs of staff and political hacks instead of from their line managers, with governance by fear so entrenched that managers who are on contract are left feeling too exposed and vulnerable to push back against inappropriate requests.
“Only last month, a public servant told me that he had arrived at work on a regular Monday morning to discover a new position had been created in his team, one that he did not know about until he arrived. A desk and computer had been set up in his area over the weekend and a new ergonomically assessed chair had been put in place.
“At 9.30am (not an early starter), after coffee with his mates at Blefari’s [a cafe on Victoria Squre] and a few fake Twitter posts later, a former political adviser sauntered into the office. He had been made a director on about $150,000 a year or maybe more — no process, no accountability, no thought that someone else in the public service might like to apply for that job, a job that did not even exist and was not needed on Friday afternoon.
“No, this was a gift from a minister for the loyal service of a particularly unsavoury political geezer.”
Speirs doesn’t only despise political advisers — he’s also not too keen on politicians, despite being one himself.
Last year, he described the state’s politicians as an “irrelevant rabble”.
He said his constituents repeatedly raised with him “the immaturity of the parliament, the lack of bipartisanship and the games and dirty tricks”.
The government wasn’t amused by Speirs’ speech.
“This from one of the Liberals’ so-called rising stars,” a government spokesman said. “If they put as much effort into policy formulation as they do into crafting bitchy little speeches they might have a chance of being a serious political party.”
*This article was originally published at InDaily