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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 2818 ..

Ms Follett: Whose fault was that?

MRS CARNELL: Yours. They would have heard of many frank and fearless exchanges between officials and Ministers where effectively the contract assisted the strength of the public official's argument. The reality is that, while ever there is not a clear and unambiguous expectation of performance and conditions of employment tied to this, there is just as much opportunity in the current scheme for so-called politicisation to occur.

Mr Humphries: Hear, hear!

MRS CARNELL: Hear, hear; that is right. It is worth reflecting on the words of the current Secretary to the Prime Minister's Department, Dr Michael Keating, as spelt out in the Government's submission to the PAC. Dr Keating, again not a noted Liberal, I would have thought, said:

... the integrity of the public service is founded more on its quality and the respect for it than its tenure.

At least, under our proposed contract system, an official will always be able to look the Government in the eye and point to the requirement in a performance agreement portion of the contract for him or her to provide frank and fearless advice. What we are saying is that there will be a requirement in those contracts to provide frank and fearless advice. This will be measured by the quality and the breadth of such advice, by the outcomes that result from such advice, and by the judgment by this Assembly of the effectiveness of that outcome. At the end of the day, it is this Assembly that assesses what the outcomes are. Under this approach we will know, unlike the past.

There has been much talk about what our proposed contract system will do to the public service. Let us not forget that it is a very long bow to draw to suggest that contract-based employment will suddenly create a political, ineffective and secretive public service. The fact is that this has not happened in other jurisdictions that have introduced this approach, in Australia or overseas. Why has it not happened? If you listened to those opposite, you would think it was absolutely necessary, that that would just be an inevitable outcome. It is because most public officials worth their salt will not sacrifice their integrity by providing advice or service that is not professional or objective, and I would have hoped Ms Follett would realise that. The days of the yes people in public administration will continue to be very limited.

We all know that public services across this country have become much more expert and professional over the last few years. Mr Kaine made the point that the public service we see today is nothing like that of 15 or 20 years ago, nor should it be. As recognised by a multiplicity of reports from organisations such as the Industry Commission, States such as New South Wales and Victoria are leading the way in reforming the quality and cost of services to the community. In the case of the Commonwealth Public Service, impressive reforms have also been achieved. None of this would have been achieved without the right people and the right degree of professionalism in respect of public sectors in these jurisdictions.

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