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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The boundaries for policy advice

The post "Marginal seat impacts not a matter for public service advice" earlier in the week turned into this letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald today. The problem is public servants assessing political benefits or detriments for the Government of decisions on big ticket expenditure-or anything else for that matter.

Political advice is part of the problem

Draft advice prepared by a senior public servant told the Government the Tillegra Dam was in the wrong place and would not be needed for 30 years ("A dam or a smokescreen'', November 17). It also revealed the blurring of the important distinction between policy and political advice.

The briefing note included this observation: ''Newcastle is a marginal seat after the last election and many of the people I talk to would vote for an independent who opposed the dam. I can't see what political benefit there is to the Government in the dam.'' Marginal seat impacts and political benefit one way or another should not feature in professional policy advice.

NSW lacks a body to set, lead and encourage professional and ethical standards for the public service, and to protect public servants who act properly in accordance with those standards. The results are self-evident.

Peter Timmins Potts Point

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