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Taking the ‘service’ out of Public Service


ADELAIDE - I happened to be looking through the Classifieds in the Adelaide Advertiser on Monday (not something I usually do, I was checking for a Death Notice).

And there, on the way to the Death Notices, I saw an advertisement, a Request for Tender in fact, from the Commonwealth Department of Finance.

It sought tenders for corporate management advisory services for the Australian government in four categories or responsibilities: Organisational Planning; Human Resources; Corporate Governance; and Internal Audit.

You should note that this was not for any specific government department; so it can be assumed it was a public service-wide process.

The advertisement suggested that the Australian Public Service is now so rundown, so deskilled and so demoralised that it cannot handle even the most fundamental aspects of internal management for itself.

The answer, according to the charlatans running our government, is to outsource internal management even more to their mates in private enterprise.

They will be paid a fortune for advice that the government has already intimated, along the lines of, "This is what we want to hear, don't tell us anything different."

The idea that perhaps the Public Service could be built up to the point where it would once again be a complete repository of skills, wisdom and knowledge is not one the current Australian government would consider.

Those immature but ambitious kids who now provide 'advice' would never believe that to be a good idea - it would do them out of a job.

By the way, don't bother tendering if you're not PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG or EY, the big four of multinational professional services firms.

The decisions have already been made about who will win the tender.

Malcolm Fraser might not be well-remembered by many people these days. But in his time the Australian prime minister (1975-83) recognised the value of an accountable, skilled and knowledgeable Public Service.

A Public Service expected to be ‘frank and fearless’ in its advice to its political masters.

With the help of public servants, Fraser introduced the Freedom of Information Act, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act and the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act, all of which had a major impact on ensuring efficient and respectful government.

Proof of the fact these measures worked may be found if you understand that Australian federal governments ever since Fraser have taken every opportunity to wind them back or stack them with cronies.


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William Dunlop

My dear Bernard,
They could count their short & curlies.

Bernard Corden

I could not resist this one:

Q: Why don't public serpents look out of their office windows in the morning?

A: They would have nothing to do in the afternoon.

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