Constant re-jigs slammed
Martin Parkinson says the federal public service should not be treated as a toy for politically-driven restructures.
Australia’s top bureaucrat, secretary for the prime minister's department Dr Martin Parkinson, has made an end-of-year speech urging the federal bureaucracy to better prepare new MPs, ministers and staffers for their jobs.
Dr Parkinson said declining public faith in democracy was being used against the public sector.
He warned that the crisis of confidence is leading governments to make ill-justified rearrangements inside the federal bureaucracy.
“Our experience is one of frequent restructuring – for reasons that are unclear to the restructured and those looking on,” he said.
“The result is disorienting for our partners and disruptive for our staff. And more so if there is no compelling rationale for the change – for example, if the change is driven by a political logic, such as rewarding a minister, rather than improving the lot of the citizen.
“Institutions and organisations take time and effort to build but are quickly weakened and damaged – if they deserve condemnation and reform, that should occur, but if not, I would urge caution and counsel against regarding the APS as a set of Lego blocks to be painlessly re-created.
“Our politicians and their staffers, whose actions and decisions have important consequences for Australia, receive no prior training before taking up positions that are central to our democratic process.
“Think about that – no training on the operation of government, their personal roles and responsibilities, or the separation between the apolitical public service and their own, correctly, political roles.
“I cannot conceive of any other serious company or organisation, where we require people to take on important roles without at least some form of prior training – anywhere else, it would seem quite bizarre.
“Yet this is the position in which ministers and their advisers continue to find themselves. This is an area where we could easily do better, and it might help improve the functioning of our democratic system.”