Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 07:38 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 07:38 | SYDNEY

Learning to say 'No, Minister'


Sam Roggeveen


4 September 2009 15:19

Is it a coincidence that this has emerged at around the same time as this? First:

The Howard government actively discouraged official advice on whether Australia should commit to the Iraq war and was given no such advice, senior public servants who ran the departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Foreign Affairs and Defence have revealed. The disclosures show the dominance of ministers in the Iraq war decision and their insistence that advice concern "how" to wage the war, not "whether" it was right for Australia.

And separately:

Public servants should not shy away from big ideas or be afraid to be bold, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said...Mr Rudd wants "sweeping reform" in the shape of a long range blueprint for change on his desk by early next year..."As I have said before, we cannot afford a culture where the public service only tells the government what it wants to hear."

Rudd's whole speech is worth a read. The calls for more long-range strategic thinking from the APS are welcome, as are suggestions for greater flow of experts between government and research institutions — although for think tanks, that carries dangers too.

The stuff about greater cohesion and espirit de corps in the APS sounds strangely like what Graeme Dobell wrote about in July, although Rudd's 'cohesion' and 'espirit de corps' sound much more benign than Graeme's 'centralisation' and 'amalgamation'.