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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 10 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 3575..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

These men and women have helped to establish a culture that was described by Ernst and Young in relation to TAMS as a "can do"culture—a culture of commitment to service delivery and meeting community expectations. In the months since I took over the TAMS portfolio, I have been immensely impressed by the dedication, the positive culture of service and the spirit of staff in TAMS. Having had the honour of getting to know public servants across numerous portfolios in my capacity as minister, I can say that that culture of commitment, that determination to serve the community, is present right across the ACT public service.

The men and women of the ACT public service are not afraid to have ideas and are not afraid to express them. And they have the satisfaction of seeing those ideas turn into policies and programs that improve the lives of their fellow Canberrans. Work does not get much more satisfying than that.

Some of us in this place have worked as public servants ourselves. We know the deep professionalism required to pursue a career in the bureaucracy, as ministers come and go, and governments come and go, with differing priorities and differing agendas. We know how it must hurt a career public servant, a professional, to have his or her capacity questioned and reputation traduced. Sadly, we have seen too many such attacks from those opposite over recent years, including attacks by those who ought to know better, those who have sat where those public servants sit. They are attacks from those who know very well that a public servant is usually unable to defend himself or herself from political attack, and may in fact be open to swift and vitriolic action if they dare to do so.

I will always believe that it is the responsibility of a minister to stand up for and defend hardworking public servants from mean-spirited political attack. This government has done so, and will continue to do so, because we know that, unless a public servant can depend on his or her minister and the government of the day to defend them from baseless attack, there can be no trust and there can be no genuine openness in the giving of advice.

MR SPEAKER: Ms Burch, a supplementary question?

MS BURCH: Chief Minister, are you aware of any threats to the high standing and reputation of the ACT public service?

MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank Ms Burch for her question. Sadly, I am aware of threats to the reputation and high standing of the ACT public service, and I am concerned that the long-term ramifications of these threats may be difficult to redress and may be impossible to undo.

It is the very culture of our public service that is at risk, a culture that has built up over 20 years of self-government, a culture that is robust but not immune to erosion if the attacks are persistent enough. Let us reflect on just a few of these attacks in recent times. We all recall the disgraceful attacks on the senior public servants who did their utmost to serve the community during the unprecedented firestorm that hit Canberra in 2003. We all remember that there were some in this place who did not believe that


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