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Thursday, May 01, 2008

PM and public service getting along famously

The Prime Minister yesterday addressed 900 top Federal public servants on the government's plans, and where they fit in the picture. All good positive stuff about building or rebuilding a modern competitive nation, and the vital role the public service will play in this. He outlined the Government's agenda for the public service :

  1. Reinvigorating the Westminster tradition of an independent public service with merit-based selection processes and continuity of employment when governments change;
  2. Building a professionalised public service committed to excellence;
  3. Developing evidence-based policy making processes as part of a robust culture of policy contestability;
  4. Enhancing the strategic policy capability of the public service;
  5. Strengthening the integrity and accountability of government;
  6. Broadening participation in government through inclusive policy processes, and
  7. A contemporary view of government service delivery that emphasises both efficiency and effectiveness in outcomes.
Unfortunately,the content on accountability consisted of the oft repeated commitment to Freedom of Information reform, specific only regarding the abolition of conclusive certificates and the creation of an Information Commissioner, and what was said about participation in government consisted of worthy but vague generalities.

Given what Labor had to say last October, when it criticised the Howard Government, then served by all those same public servants who were in the room yesterday, for its culture of concealment, and committed "to drive a culture shift across the bureaucracy to promote a pro-disclosure culture", you would have thought that the occasion was a golden opportunity to put this strongly and forcibly on the line.

Culture reflects "tone at the top" and culture change is not something easily achieved , particularly when you haven't raised the subject since you took over the place 5 months ago.

The Prime Minister and Minister of State Faulkner both are missing important opportunities to use their leadership positions to state and restate that they want things done differently in the access to information field

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