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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 2611 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

I would like to finish with a further quote from Mr Tony Ayers, Mr Speaker. He said:

It has been reported that the ACT Government is planning to join States who have introduced fixed term performance related contracts (whatever performance may be taken to mean). Let me fly the flag for a merit based public service at all levels.

Mr Ayers went on:

I dislike the concept of senior executive service officers as political groupies attracted to the light of their own political party like a swarm of bogong moths. If we want a third rate Public Service, the way to achieve it is to politically cleanse the Public Service after each election and put in a new bunch of stooges.

That is what Mr Ayers said. Mr Speaker, some long-term Canberrans will recall that, just after World War II, the top bureaucrats, including Dr "Nugget" Coombs, were known as "the seven dwarfs". It is now up to this Government to decide whether they want to be remembered as responsible not for the dwarfs but for the stooges.

MS HORODNY (10.49): Mr Speaker, the Public Sector Management Bill proposes radical reforms to the public service. The Greens spoke of our fears about moving more and more towards output funding during the debates on the budget. We expressed our concern that the Government has only a limited understanding of the need to develop qualitative measures of performance, of the need to look beyond a narrow definition of outputs. The proposal to put senior public sector managers on contracts, in our view, is a dangerous step if it is based on a narrow understanding of the role of government and a narrow understanding of the public interest. What these contracts will mean, if they get up, is a move towards making the public service less about serving the public, as contractual arrangements are supposed to be exempt from public scrutiny on the grounds of commercial-in-confidence. Maybe that is because, under the "let the managers manage" philosophy, meeting bottom lines will be a key element of contractual arrangements. Contrary to providing more accountable government, the Greens believe this is an anathema to open accountable government. We have been told that providing fearless advice would be a part of the contract; but, at the same time, an executive can be dismissed on the grounds of incompatibility.

Another concern to the Greens is that, while jobs will go in the name of efficiency, the salaries of those who remain will increase as a compensation for loss of tenure. At a time when the Commonwealth Government is backing away from performance pay, it is interesting that this Government is convinced that people take top jobs only if they receive top dollar. It is also questionable whether performance will increase with contracts. What we are witnessing, if this legislation goes ahead unamended, is a dangerous move towards privatisation of the bureaucracy. If we wanted government to behave like private enterprise we would not have governments.

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