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Nov 22, 2017

Australians want bold leadership, not timid bureaucrats, says Terry Moran

Influential former public servant Terry Moran says Australians want a more robust public service.

Australians are fed up with policymakers in this country, says new attitude research, and they have a right to be according to one of the nation’s top former public servants.

Terry Moran’s remarks to the Institute of Public Administration Australia Victoria’s fellows dinner on Tuesday were less of a stinging rebuke for the profession he once led, but rather a rallying cry to get energised and get back in the game.

Australians don’t just want more effective government — they want a more active government with the courage to take on ideas, said Moran citing the national attitude research from Essential Media and the Centre for Policy Development, which he chairs, in partnership with Professor Glenn Withers from the Australian National University. The research is expected to be published next month.

The pendulum of public consensus has swung away from a preference for small government and a ruthless approach to cost efficiency, to one where government has a larger role, especially in service delivery, and greater impact. A public service that retains the skills and capability to deliver services directly — an active, collaborative player in nation building, not merely a cash machine for a few mates in the form of lucrative contracts.

The findings also show significant public support for specific reforms to the parliament system to improve probity and accountability to the Australian public. These included a federal corruption commission and allowing citizens to serve on parliamentary committees.

“The starting point for renewing Australian democracy is to reinvest in the creative elements of our public services, enriched as they must be by direct experience of the services that Australians expect government to provide,” Moran told the gathering of Victorian public servants. “On this, the APS has more to learn from state administrations than it seems to realise.”

Read the rest at Crikey sister site The Mandarin


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One thought on “Australians want bold leadership, not timid bureaucrats, says Terry Moran

  1. [email protected]

    I’ve just emerged from twenty years in the fed APS, spanning a dozen roles in two of the largest and most powerful bureaucratic silos, and I have some thoughts on this. The significant problem the APS faces is that it’s been politicised from head to toe. It has nothing to do with serving the public any longer. In fact, that’s actively discouraged. It’s ALL about protecting the minister. The entire culture has been ruined over the last two decades by a promotion and reward structure that only prizes following the line, protecting the system from change an ensuring that the entire enterprise is geared towards the avoidance of (mostly perceived) controversy. The Howard govt started the process in earnest, and every subsequent govt has followed suit. The APS is an expensive national tragedy that almost no-one acknowledges, and that negatively affects thousands of lives. It exhibits every bad outcome of large corporate culture and modern management theory, and then doubles down on appalling news-cycle driven politics led, willingly, by modern politicians who won’t countenance open discussion, along with juvenile advisers who pander to ludicrous fringe groups who represent nothing but loud noise. Really, it should be called the Australian Political Service. I’m sure Moran is a nice guy and all, and making these observations is worthy, but the job of changing the culture – which is possible, if costly and longwinded – is really bound up in renewed statutory independence for the service, a de-politicised Commission, genuine merit-based promotion and the wholesale abandonment of consultants. In other words, a massive task no politician(s) I can see around me is/are going to lead and implement. I sincerely wish you luck.

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