The Jim Carlton Annual Integrity Lecture was delivered by Glyn Davis AC, Distinguished Professor of Political Science on 7 May 2021 at the Melbourne Law School, Melbourne University – a collaboration between the Accountability Round Table (ART) and the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies (CCCS)
Jim Carlton was involved closely in establishment of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, just one of his many contributions to high level policy advice and skilled administration. He was a Cabinet Minister in Malcolm Fraser’s government, then became CEO of the Australian Red Cross and, later, a member of the Accountability Round Table (ART).
Recent reports worry about the diminishing role of the public service in providing ‘frank and fearless’ independent advice to governments. For the Australian Public Service, major concerns include integrity and job security, concerns about loss of policy capacity, the ascendency of consultants over public service advice, and the influence to ministerial staff who work without the accountability of the public sector.
Drawing on recent experience as a member of the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service, this lecture invites Australians to reflect on the loss of capability in our public agencies, and the consequences for integrity and informed debate in and beyond Parliament – all subjects Jim Carlton cared about passionately.
We meet, as always, on sacred ground, the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations. I acknowledge their country and offer respect to elders past, present and emerging.
The Wurundjeri story is both proud and distressing – the people of the Yarra for millennia, subject suddenly to dispossession, separated from these lands by settlers who paid little regard to rights or history.
Once this place was a grassy woodland dominated by red river gum and yellow box, constantly renewed though careful land management. Using stone axes the Wurundjeri created shelter, canoes and tools from the trees, along with nets to capture the short-finned eels which travelled up the shallow creek which flowed down the gully now buried under Bouverie Street.
And, of course, the University of Melbourne has its own connections to Wurundjeri history. The driving force for a place of higher learning in this state was the Redmond Barry, judge of the Supreme Court and first Chancellor. Before joining the judiciary, Barry was also Victoria’s Standing Counsel for Aborigines, a strong advocate for Indigenous people.
In R v Bonjon, heard in 1841, Redmond Barry argued that British law had no jurisdiction over the Wurundjeri because they never ceded sovereignty. The Wurundjeri were not British subjects, said Barry, so their traditional law and rights endured.
Not until the Mabo decision of 1992 did this argument find majority support in law.
May I thank the Accountability Round Table and the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies and for their invitation, for choosing to meet at the Melbourne Law School – and, above all, for honouring the contribution of Jim Carlton to a more just and fair Australia.
The first Integrity Lectures were established in 2011 and renamed for Jim Carlton in 2016.
It is daunting to join such a strong batting list of speakers. Their presentations often touched on personal connections with Jim Carlton.
In 2011, Inaugural lecturer Fred Chaney recalled the integrity Jim Carlton displayed in politics – in debate on economic issues, said Jim, ‘the first task is to find the right answer, the second task is to work out how to sell it.’
Lindsay Tanner followed in 2012 and Michelle Grattan in 2014.
In 2017, Gillian Triggs celebrated Jim Carlton as ‘a true liberal and a socially progressive, warm hearted man of great integrity.’ She noted with admiration his long partnership with Diana.‘She and Jim’, said Gillian, ‘were quiet and modest people with compassion and belief in public service.’
Terry Moran in 2019 traced Jim Carlton’s career through the NSW Liberal Party, federal Parliament, the Commonwealth ministry, and later the Red Cross, where his outstanding service was recognised with the movement’s highest honour, the Henry Dunant Medal.
That journey continued as Jim became a Director of the Cranlana Program and a Senior Adviser at the Boston Consulting Group.
Peter Baume recalled the articulate and powerful speaker, committed to probity and integrity in public life.
These speakers were grateful that Diane Carlton attended their lecture – as am I. It is a delight to welcome her along with Jim’s many friends.
My engagement with Jim Carlton began with protracted negotiations to establish an Australia and New Zealand School of Government, finally achieved in 2002. Jim served as adviser, champion, fierce advocate and founding Director. As first Chair of the ANZSOG board I was grateful for his unstinting support and his wise advice. I join colleagues in celebrating the warmth, the commitment and the principles that make Jim Carlton an important figure in Australia’s political and civic history.
In his invitation to deliver this public lecture, that other distinguished parliamentarian – Barry Jones – provided clear instructions: I was to be provocative about the diminution of policy capability in the Australian Public Service.
On this point, as indeed on all points, Barry was firm.
So I hope he will forgive me for approaching this issue comparatively, exploring three reviews and three metaphors for the organisation of our nation’s administration.
This is a narrative of long trends and shared responsibility across the political aisle. It is a story in which people must make choices knowing they cannot anticipate all the consequences.
Our condition, as Italo Calvino wrote, is to ‘hurtle into the future, inventing responses before we can understand the challenges’.
So let me describe three reviews of the Australian Public Service, nearly 40 years apart, and ask how each understood their moment. Since it is easy to criticise the work of others, but less fun to ask about our own prescience, let me confess I played a role in all three reports.
We begin with Malcolm Fraser, a demanding prime minister who appointed Jim Carlton as Minister for Health in 1982.
Fraser expected much from his public servants and drove them hard. They did not always meet his expectations, so in September 1982 the Prime Minister announced a review of Commonwealth administration.
Led by the Chair of James Hardie Industries, John Reid, the review would report in just four months, working through the Christmas break. Fraser made clear he wished ‘not only to remedy deficiencies in administration’, but to ‘look more broadly at the public service’. He wanted new thinking about the challenges ahead, including computer technology and changing expectations of government.
Mr Reid and his two fellow review panel members acknowledged pockets of excellence, but identified many constraints on effective government administration. The public service must work harder to attract the best and brightest, said the report, as it offered numerous practical measures to improve efficiency.
To return decades later to the Review of Commonwealth Administration of 1983 is to see ambition suddenly overtaken by history. For while Mr Reid laboured on his report, just over the horizon was a profound debate about the future of government administration. It would soon spark change more profound than anything contemplated in the report to Prime Minister Fraser.
For the moment, though, these new ideas remained weak signals from the future: challenges to Keynesian orthodoxy, criticisms of big government, arguments that public administration should pay more attention to business practice, driven in part by influential new economists such as Jim Carlton.
John Reid could feel change in the air. To his review secretariat, he kept posing a simple question: ‘why can’t the public service operate like a business?’
The answer seemed obvious. Public service acts for parliament, is part of the state and is trusted with a monopoly of power. It therefore has a duty to behave with principles and accountability not demanded of business. Selection must be merit-based, to avoid any suggestion of patronage. Agencies operate as part of a larger system. Because public administration lacks autonomy, a profit motive or an ability to change direction given legislated instructions, it cannot mirror the private sector.
In short, said conventional wisdom, the difference between public and private is one of kind, not degree.
Though reluctantly, the review committee accepted these verities. In his preface to the January 1983 report, Mr Reid conceded the exercise ‘did not find any startling new truths’. This he attributed to the narrow frame of reference alongside familiar challenges for which there are no ‘easy panaceas.’
With the benefit of hindsight, the committee stayed within the first of my three metaphors. It saw public administration, with its focus on legal rationality, as a type of clockwork. Public bureaucracies resembled a carefully constructed chronometer – accountability, neutrality, responsibility and merit, each tightly sprung to regulate the others. An intricate mechanism of wheels within wheels, turning against one another to ensure balance.
In essence, the Reid Inquiry was asked to reset that clockwork, since some cogs were not functioning as required. The review recommendations aimed to address the defects, to bring the machinery back into sync.
All this I observed as a Research Officer Grade 1, taking time from my doctorate at the Australian National University to work in the Reid inquiry secretariat. As the most junior member of the team I was thoroughly caught up in the race against time given the impossible deadline set by the Prime Minister.
Only with distance can I see the simple question posed – but not answered – by John Reid, ‘why can’t the public service operate like a business?’, proved key to what followed.
As so often in public life, the urgency proved misplaced. Just weeks after receiving the report, Malcolm Fraser called a federal election. He lost – and with him went the rationale for the Reid report and, it seemed, any prospect it might be implemented.
In fact, the obituary proved premature: many detailed recommendations from Reid, including fewer central controls and more authority for chief executives, were embraced by the new Labor government and announced in December 1983.
By then, governments were drawing on a new model for public administration. ‘Corporate management’ – or managerialism in less generous accounts – would draw on business practice. The public sector should be more responsive. break down hierarchy, end onerous employment rules – ‘let the managers manage,’ in the evocative slogan of Mike Keating.
Here was the second metaphor emerging – public administration as private sector practice, redefining government work as a set of defined tasks to be measured, costed and led like divisions of a large business.
Corporate management reflected a global shift toward the logic of markets, small government and contestability. The scale and scope of the APS now shrunk, even as the national population and economy grew. Australia followed the lead of the Thatcher government, privatising a long list of public agencies. Familiar institutions, from airlines and banks to phone services departed the public sector.
For those agencies which remained, it was no longer assumed public servants should deliver services. Government could instead be the principal, hiring agents to do its bidding. This introduced a world of contracting – private firms undertaking work once exclusively reserved for public officials.
Unemployed Australians would find themselves talking not with the Commonwealth Employment Service, but with a private job placement company. The Department of Defence contracted out numerous non-essential services previously provided by uniformed service personnel.
‘If it doesn’t help us kill people, we shouldn’t be doing it’ said then Defence Secretary Tony Ayers, only half jesting.
Contracting goes to the core of public administration, since it questions claims of difference in kind. Yes, government might wield a monopoly of power in many areas, but it should not be a monopoly provider. Much government work – perhaps most – could be parcelled out to willing firms and charities. Those old rules about permanent employment, with equal pay and conditions to ensure integrity, need not apply to contract workers.
Here was a profound change in the idea of public service, with the public now a customer accessing a service provided by the lowest bidder.
The result was the largest change to the Australian Public Service in nearly a century of operation. The Commonwealth shed nearly a third of its full-time employees. Tenure for senior public servants was replaced by contract employment, enterprise bargaining framed employee relations, common entry and mobility schemes were curtailed. Government would be recast along business lines far beyond anything contemplated by John Reid and his committee.
There were further public service reviews during the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments, with a major stocktake announced in the first years of the Rudd administration. The Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – and Jim Carlton lecturer – Terry Moran commissioned a report eventually called Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration. It was delivered to Prime Minister Rudd in March 2010.
I was delighted to join a review panel which included my doctoral supervisor, Professor Pat Weller, the man who originally recommended me to the Reid Inquiry secretariat. Sometimes Australia is a very small country.
As Terry Moran began his stocktake, the Australian Public Service now resembled a large and complex corporation, operating through long chains of sub-contractors. Much of the Moran review focused on the unintended consequences of a model that expected government to steer, but not necessarily to row.
Ahead of the Game found an Australian Public Service filled with committed public servants but failing to invest sufficiently in the people or IT systems essential for quality services. It noted the absence of reliable data about performance, and difficulties of coordination amid so many agencies, contractors and private providers.
Report recommendations focused on managing this complexity. The Review argued for a Secretaries’ Board so departmental heads worked toward joined-up service delivery. Proposals touched on investment in better IT systems, strengthened policy capability, more attention to leadership recruitment, training and assessment, better workforce planning and regular reviews of agency effectiveness and efficiency.
The report describes a smaller Australian Public Service, one struggling to keep up with citizen expectations amid annual budget cuts under the euphemism of ‘efficiency dividends.’ There is concern a core public service strength – policy expertise – is now under pressure, facing competition from consulting firms not bound by the same requirement for frank and fearless advice.
Ahead of the Game abounds with quiet warnings. The public service, suggests the report, needs to find a working relationship with ministerial staff, who now issue orders about matters which should remain the prerogative of ministers and public servants. The report worries too that departments, struggling with controls on staffing numbers and budgets, will contract out ‘business as usual’ tasks. Read a decade later, the dominant theme is growing deficiencies within the contract state rather than an optimistic future vision for better administration.
As with the Reid Inquiry, most recommendations from Ahead of the Game were eventually implemented, if not necessarily swiftly. Only one, a regular survey of citizen attitudes, was not pursued due to lack of funding.
Nearly a decade later, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull decided it was the right moment for a further review, this time with a strong focus on information technology to improve engagement with citizens. I served as one of five members of an independent panel conducting the review, very ably led by chair David Thodey.
Much of the Thodey report focused on the complex information systems needed to deliver contemporary services. Once again the issue is investment. While large business budget for continuous upgrading of their systems, in Canberra the expenditure review committee shows little appetite for the huge and continuous sums required. The report described Commonwealth IT equipment sometimes decades old, with inadequate staffing and often poor system implementation.
As a result, government services struggle to match the seamless integration we routinely experience online from banks and electricity companies. In a world of diminished trust this lagging system capability for the Australian Public Service joins constrained resources, diminished policy capability and concerns about integrity.
By the Thodey review the implicit metaphor of public administration was no longer clockwork, nor even a corporation. The public sector most often is described as a network, a complex arrangement of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines, a web of connections linking public and private partners around shared programs. In this understanding the Australian Public Service is the coordinating node and underlying funder, but much of the work is done by others.
Government as network is a metaphor that can be pushed further. The Thodey report introduces the idea of the Australian Public Service as partner, working with state and local government, business and charities to deliver place-based integrated services. Here work with Indigenous communities shows the way, such as the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke.
To be a partner, one among many operating across a lively network, the Commonwealth must not assume control but rather to work within a coalition of service providers around a shared goal. In Bourke this is an aspiration to reduce Aboriginal incarceration and reinvest the savings in better quality facilities and employment opportunities. It requires humility and collaboration from everyone involved, including public servants and ministers impatient for results.
If implemented with skill, the ideas of partners within a network, a rich ecology of communities and charities, agencies and activists, could offer an exciting future for public service.
It is a trend already embraced in New Zealand, where New Public Administration employs the language of serving not steering. It values community and citizens over business practices, stresses the role of the public sector in ensuring public integrity and bolstering democracy, and claims a mandate for agencies to think strategically and long-term, not just deliver programs.
Yet partnership is not easy to reconcile with contracting, which remains the dominant mode for delivering public services. Contracts require standardisation and measurement, while place-based partnerships are bespoke, shaped around a particular community, sharing resources and responsibilities that cut across organisational boundaries.
Finding a viable synthesis between local and customised programs and the organisation around larger contracted providers, remains challenging. It is made more so by the loss of policy depth within the Australian Public Service, teams with time to think slowly and methodically about approaches which break the current mould.
Under the clockwork model, only the public service provided policy advice, tempered at times by external reviews.
Under corporate management, the use of consultants to advise on policy choices became more frequent, often when ministers wanted to test departmental recommendations. In the shift to contracting, ministers could reach out directly to external advisers, and bypass the public service entirely.
The scale of this change is unmistakable. Core policy development is often assigned to large consulting houses. Young graduates who once moved to Canberra to begin a public service career now apply for their first job from university with Bain & Co or McKinsey. They are following the money – in 2018 the federal government spent an astonishing $1.2 billion in a single year buying advice from just 8 consulting firms, a 300 percent increase since Ahead of the Game.
That is serious money which could be invested in employing policy experts within the Australian Public Service to provide continuity and depth of advice. Instead we see a vicious cycle – fewer policy analysts so more need for external advice, more consulting reports so less need for internal policy specialists.
As a result the Australian Public Service struggles to be the reliable point of continuity across administrations, learning from accumulated experience and improving policy outcomes over time. It has fewer opportunities to ponder messages from failed service delivery and draw these into the next generation of program design.
There is no reliable way to measure aggregate policy capability, but a sense of loss runs deep within present and past senior public servants.
The Thodey report, titled Our Public Service Our Future, was presented to the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on 20 September 2019. It proposed significant reinvestment in the sector, alongside essential upgrades in digital capacity. It argued for greater recognition of professional expertise within the Australian Public Service as well as enhanced probity arrangements, more secure employment for leaders and greater separation between the political and the professional worlds of government.
The Report urged fewer and more carefully planned machinery of government changes, noting the hidden costs and inefficiencies as prime ministers reshuffle departmental structures to accommodate each change in minister or priority. It recounted, for example, that the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science alone has experienced 21 machinery, title and leadership changes in less than a decade.
The review also argued the pendulum has swung too far toward a spoils system for senior appointments. Changes which began in the Hawke era, when the idea of a ‘permanent head’ was abandoned, have progressively weakened the transparency of processes to appoint – and dismiss – secretaries of departments.
Arbitrary appointment and dismissal, notes the report, can ‘create a climate of timidity and risk aversion’. It risks a suspicion of patronage and political loyalty tests, reinforcing the idea that ‘who you know can become more important than what you do.’
Hence the Thodey report proposed more formal procedures for selecting and terminating departmental secretaries, with an expanded role for the APS Commissioner to oversee due process. Grounds for termination would be published. This would encourage public servants to provide any government with frank and fearless advice with less fear of political retribution from current or future ministers.
Likewise, the report addressed the contentious role of ministerial staff. The review recommended ministerial staff should be subject to the same standards of accountability as public servants, be required to undertake training in their responsibilities, and work to a legislated Code of Conduct. Like public servants and ministers, advisers should face parliamentary scrutiny.
Finally, of particular importance to this audience, the Report worried about corruption.
Integrity was not a major concern of the Reid inquiry – indeed, most Australians then considered Australia a country blessed by little official corruption.
This confidence remained, only a little shaken, in Ahead of the Game.
Yet outsourcing much government activity introduces significant additional hazards. Public servants must oversee contracts worth billions. Firms contracting to the Commonwealth have strong incentives to build close links with officials. They hire former public servants with the knowledge and contacts to assist winning the next tender.
Ahead of the Game dealt relatively briefly with integrity and anti-corruption initiatives. It recommends strengthening the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct but expressed confidence in the anti-corruption work of the existing Australian Commission for Law Enforcement and Integrity.
By the time of the Thodey report, the mood had changed. Documented corruption in the Australian Tax Office and Australian Border Force had drawn attention to poor behaviour by ministers and public servants.
Following the 2016 election the returned Coalition government promised a Commonwealth Integrity Commission, a move warmly endorsed by the Thodey panel. Nonetheless the Thodey report called for further initiatives to build a pro-integrity public service culture.
Only in November last year did the Commonwealth release its exposure draft Commonwealth Integrity Commission bill for consultation.
At that time, an analysis by Professor AJ Brown suggested the proposed Integrity Commission will cover only 20 percent of the federal public service.
Under the draft the public cannot refer corruption issues to the Commonwealth Integrity Commission. Indeed a whistle-blower could be prosecuted for making an unwarranted accusation to the Commission.
Ministers, politicians and officials can refer matters only if they have ‘reasonable suspicion’ that a designated criminal offence has occurred.
This remains a work in progress. The government is now considering responses to its exposure draft.
Meanwhile, the Independent Panel submitted its final report in late September 2019. During the course of the review, both the Prime Minister and Secretary of his Department were replaced. A report commissioned by Malcolm Turnbull was delivered to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his new Secretary, Phil Gaetjens.
For several months panel members waited for the government to release the report and a response in the usual manner.
Prime Minister Morrison, though, adopted a novel approach. On 5 December, without releasing the report, the Prime Minister announced major changes to the Australian Public Service. His decisions made clear he did not accept Thodey report conclusions about reducing departmental restructures, strengthening the independence of senior public servants or bringing accountability to ministerial staff.
On the contrary, the Prime Minister announced that 18 federal departments would become just 14. Agencies were not given an opportunity to provide advice on the changes. Among those altered yet again was the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.
The Prime Minister also announced the unilateral firing of five long-serving departmental secretaries. No reasons were provided.
A little over a week later, Prime Minister Morrison released the Thodey report and his response, titled Delivering for Australians. Of 40 recommendations, 15 were agreed, 20 agreed in part, 2 noted and 3 rejected.
Those recommendations adopted included most on improved digital service delivery, with funding announcements likely in next week’s federal budget. The Prime Minister also adopted proposals for professional streams within the Australian Public Service.
On the other hand, the Prime Minister rejected recommendations about machinery of government, tenure for secretaries, and any change in arrangements for ministerial staff. This would not be necessary, said the Prime Minister, because the government already ‘expects all ministerial staff to uphold the highest standards of integrity’.
Given the Christmas break was only days away, and major public service changes announced already, the formal response to Our Public Service Our Future was little noted or reported.
Hence commentators missed an interesting reflection from the Prime Minister on the role of the Australian Public Service. For though public servants might offer advice, said Prime Minister Morrison in his foreword to Delivering for Australians, the job of the APS is to ‘deliver the government’s agenda. It is ministers who provide policy leadership and direction.’
This can be understood as an unremarkable statement of constitutional nicety. Ultimate decision for policy choices indeed belongs with elected ministers. But a less sanguine reading is also possible.
For I see in the statement from the Prime Minister suggestions of a more fundamental shift. What was once a partnership to govern between ministers and public service experts is now described as a command and control system. The minister and their advisers are firmly in control, and the public service becomes the delivery arm of political goals.
The assumption of a public service which can endure through changes of government, a public service which acts as a deep well of collective experience and intellectual capital for the nation, is lost in this narrow formulation advanced by the Prime Minister.
The tendency to push aside traditional public service advice in favour of consultants, contracted service delivery and underfunding of core policy capability are all long-standing trends. Changes over 40 years have delivered a much transformed public service, likely more efficient, but at the cost of policy capability and coherence.
Since rejecting the Thodey advice on more accountability for ministerial advisers, the Morrison government has suffered some embarrassment at their hands. Not all political players in Parliament House, it turns out, uphold the highest standard of integrity.
We have also seen ministers reject unwelcome recommendations from officials in favour of more congenial counsel. This was drawn to public attention when Sports Minister Brigid McKenzie and her advisers substituted their own advice on priority projects with some $100m in public spending at issue. Despite an adverse audit report, the Minister resigned on a technicality and none of the ministerial staff involved have been held to account.
In one sense, public administration may be turning a very full circle, tracing an arc back to the early nineteenth century. The triumph of the Northcote-Trevelyan report of 1854 was to transform British public administration from sinecure and patronage to a profession which ‘valued integrity, propriety, objectivity and appointment on merit’, able to serve successive governments with impartiality.
When the Commonwealth public service began in 1901, it inherited this modern model of the British Civil Service and applied its strictures with enthusiasm. This gave Australians confidence in the honesty of their public servants, though integrity came at the cost of a very rules-bound public sector.
The multiple-volume Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration delivered by HC ‘Nugget’ Coombs in 1976 calculated the costs. Though the Australian Public Service may exemplify order and probity, concluded the report, the service was ‘excessively centralised, excessively hierarchical, excessively rigid and inflexible, and excessively resistant to organisational change’.
Coombs began the long search, which continues, for a better balance between agility and accountability.
The Reid Inquiry of 1983 affirmed the need for better management but stayed within the clockwork paradigm.
The Moran report of 2010 acknowledged the traditional public service system described by Coombs and Reid had now been replaced by a business logic. Ahead of the Game recorded the loss of public service capability that followed contracting. It described a corporate management model at risk of exhausting the benefits of its paradigm.
The Thodey review began to sketch a network metaphor beyond the contract state. In the model offered we glimpse a possible future for public administration, with strengthened capability at the centre, a new emphasis on partnership, an embrace of joint service delivery which deploys at local level the coming world of artificial intelligence.
Though the Morrison government rejected many Thodey recommendations, ideas have a way of finding their audience over time. This is why recommendations often flow from one report to the next, dismissed at first but slowly gaining the status of common sense. If the experience of Reid and Moran proves a guide, many of the Thodey recommendations will eventually find their way into practice – if not under this administration, then under the many which follow.
For though never in ideal circumstances, we make our history. The changes described to the Australian Public Service over 40 years are choices, the collective actions of ministers, officials, advisers, commentators all responding to ideas and opportunity. Such choices can be challenged, revisited – and changed. We are capable of looking at what works well, and what can be improved. We can reshape traditions that fall on hard times, use crisis to rethink our approach.
So if the Australian Public Service has lost significant capability, we can build it back. If corruption looms we can think harder about the alternatives, take what is worthwhile in a draft Commonwealth Integrity Commission, and push hard to expand its remit.
As we hurtle into the future, reviews are an opportunity to take stock, to explore alternatives and invent responses. In my experience over these three inquires, decades apart, each report sketched the dominant ideas of its moment, offered new possibilities, and shaped the next steps. Thinking is vital work, even when the results are at first unwelcome.
Covid has reminded us that an effective public service remains indispensable. Necessity has spawned policy innovation. Watching the daily media conferences through lock-down we were reminded why public officials matter, that expertise, experience and judgement bring substance to governance.
Identifying the problem is a first step. Arguing, advocating, pointing to choices is next, and that responsibility falls to all of us who care about the Australian Public Service as a core institution of democracy.
For Jim Carlton’s example – find the right answer before we worry about how to sell it – remains our guide. In his approach – reflect, think, act – we will find our public service, our future.