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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3593 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

The primary and only duty of those holding public office is to 'properly safeguard the interest of the public'.

Elsewhere Mr Osborne says a public servant's job is "to either carry out the policies of the government of the day, or to assist in the formulation of policies as required, regardless of personal political beliefs".

They are two potentially opposing views that may be aligned by the view that the public service serves the public and the public interest by serving the elected government of the day. The standard Westminster-style approach reflects the fundamental accountability difference between elected and appointed officials.

The bill proposes answers without asking what the requirements for a robust, professional or service-oriented and responsive public service are. The package does not address key issues around the workability of government and the impact of changes on the territory's governance.

I have mentioned the renewal of the public service which was launched on the 20th of this month. The program of addressing past weaknesses and building on our strengths is a very important program which must continue irrespective of who is in office. The Commissioner for Public Administration is reviewing the Public Sector Management Act. He will be releasing a series of discussion papers over coming months. These will provide a focus for wider debate and discussion.

Leadership, development and training have all been identified for future work. This is a better approach to building strength in the public service than attempting to legislate about the process. What should be avoided is a reaction to past events which simply says that we want to do it differently to what past events suggest was the practice. We need rather to be building a positive, dynamic arrangement for the public service to create structures that improve responsiveness, innovation and community orientation for the public service. I do not think this bill does that, and I therefore suggest the Assembly not support the bill today.

MR KAINE (11.43): Mr Speaker, the present procedure for appointing chief executives of departments is, I think, undeniably defective. Indeed, it is an abnegation of the government's responsibility to the community to take fearless, unbiased, informed and sometimes dissenting advice from the heads of its departments.

No person employed under a performance-based contract that either party may cancel can be expected, realistically, to provide that kind of advice in the face of a minister who has already made up his or her mind about what he or she wants to do, and seeks from the departmental head only a means of doing it and a set of words justifying it. Contracted departmental heads naturally have their personal welfare in mind, and disagreeing with a minister is a certain way to put that welfare in jeopardy. Performance-based contracts are the manure that fertilises the ground and the growth of yes-men and yes-women.

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