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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 2610 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

I do have problems with the extension of fixed term contracts to all senior executive positions particularly in those systems whereby contracts can be terminated without cause at one month's notice. The danger of Ministers receiving the advice that they want to hear rather than what they ought to hear is obvious.

It was obvious to Mr Ayers, it is obvious to me, but it seems it is not obvious to the Government. Mr Speaker, the Government proposes that the notice period be eight weeks.

One of the weaker arguments advanced by the Government for this proposal is the one that everyone else is doing it, what I call the "me too-ism" position. We must assess whether the benefits claimed are actually achieved and whether there are better ways. The total contract system for executives in the New South Wales Government Service did not prevent the Juvenile Justice Department's management debacle. The New South Wales Auditor-General's report on that complete failure of contracted managers to manage is yet to be made public. Also, Mr Speaker, it is not even true that everyone else is doing it. The Commonwealth is not, Queensland is not, and the British Civil Service is not either. This last point might come as a surprise to some, as the Government has claimed some justification for its case from the mother country. But the British Civil Service White Paper 1994, Attachment C(1) of the Government's submission, states at paragraph 4.35:

The Government does not favour fixed-term or rolling contracts as a model for general application.

In other words, they are not doing it.

Mr Speaker, the proposal for total contract employment with loss of tenure fails to recognise the unique Canberra environment. The ACT public service is the smaller of the two public services in this city. That situation is unique in Australia. In all other capitals the State or Territory service is the one with the larger number and the most significant top jobs. Our most significant competitor for the best in public administrators is not the Victorian or New South Wales public service, or even the Queensland one, but the other service right here in Canberra, the Commonwealth. If you look at the history of our senior public servants you will see that there has been considerable movement between the ACT service and the Commonwealth, in my opinion to the benefit of both, and that should continue.

I made sure, Mr Speaker, that, in separating from the Commonwealth, transferability remained readily available between our two local public services - as the Prime Minister described it, "as porous as possible". A move to make the ACT public service extremely different from the Australian Public Service will not enhance our recruitment from elsewhere; it will simply reduce our capacity to recruit and to keep high-quality staff locally. (Extension of time granted) I thank members.

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