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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 96 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

I wish to comment briefly on extracts from two books about the traditional career public service. The first is from Career Service by Gerald Caiden. His study of the history of the Commonwealth public service found that the seven foundational principles of the service which were incorporated into law were:

  1. Standardisation of conditions of employment.
  2. Administration covering uniform conditions of employment, recruitment, and promotion by an independent central agency which is free from political obligation.
  3. Recruitment by open competitive examination wherever practicable.
  4. Promotion by merit-while practice often tended to favour senior officers, this was offset by the development of appeal procedures.
  5. Position classification aimed at identifying defined promotion ladders and providing a proper career channel wherever possible.
  6. A code of rights and duties.
  7. Adherence to career service principles in spirit. A permanent appointment meant a guaranteed full-time career until the age of retirement, provided the officer has not been dismissed for misconduct or retired for incapacity.

I think it is becoming increasingly clear just how much of this foundation has been eroded by our executive contracts system. The second extract is from the book Politicisation and the Career Service by Curnow and Page. It states:

The career service ... provide[s] continuity and stability of administration. Political crises may occur in rapid succession, but the security of tenure enjoyed by public servants ensures that essential services continue to be performed. Public servants become the repository of considerable expertise, not merely because of continuity, but also because their appointment and promotion by merit ensures a relatively high level of competence ... Overall, the system is more formally rational; more certain and predictable than any other, and possibly more efficient as well. And although the career service does not guarantee the absence of corruption, it does place a premium on professional behaviour.

The independent secure public servant, providing impartial advice, can act as a counterweight to balance the more passionate enthusiasm of political masters, whose decisions are, understandably, alleged to be based solely on short-term political gains. A career service is loyal and responsible to the democratically elected government of the day in accordance with the doctrine of the Westminster system.

The career service which existed in ... Australia during the mid-twentieth century was remarkable not only for its purity, but also the extent of its coverage of public service positions. Future generations may look back on this period if not as a golden age, then as an aberration in administrative development.

If changes to the career service do not function as intended, then all that will have happened is that one insulated self-perpetuating elite will have been exchanged for another.

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