Rewind: This Party – or That? (February, 1971)
"Loyalty is a two-edged sword. Any Government has a right to expect loyalty and efficiency from its Public Services with this right comes an obligation to see that Civil Servants receive a fair deal in return.
When this leader is being read all members will know which party will occupy the Treasury Benches for the next three years but at the time it is being written no one really knows who will head the Public Service as Premier of the State.
On the job it should not matter to a Civil Servant which party governs. The clear responsibility of a person appointed under the Public Service Act is to give the best possible service to those entrusted with the reins of office. His loyalty should be unquestioned and his efficiency should not be related in any way to his own political beliefs.
Without a politically neutral Public Service it is very doubtful whether liberal democracy could survive. This is the main reason why there is a Public Service Act. Ministers, and some Permanent Heads, have considered that the tortuous process of “going through the commissioner” is not in the best interests of their Departments and have made appointments which would have been made under the Public Service Act in any other State of the Commonwealth.
This practise must cease. There is a heavy responsibility on the new Board to make sure that its powers are not abrogated. The Association cannot sit by any longer watching the second Public Service grow. Its growth strikes at the whole concept of an independent administrative arm of Government.
If the Liberal/Country Party coalition is returned to office, it is to be hoped that the Premier and his Ministers will do some rethinking on their relationship with the Association. Their record is far from good.
Glib words at election times of “mutual understanding and co-operation” do nothing to erase the memory of their handling of the Public Service Arbitration Act, their reluctance to amend legislation which is outmoded, their curt negative replies to reasonable requests and their refusal to legislate for basic appeal rights in Instrumentalities.
Add to this the lack of communication over the appointment of the Public Service Board and the attitude that the former Public Service Commissioner – now Chairman, Public Service Board must first be convinced before they will seriously entertain any submissions of the Association and you have a Government which is now taking the Association for granted.
Have you ever read a policy speech of a State Premier elsewhere in Australia which failed to give Public Servants a mention?
If the Government changes on the 20th of February, and Labor assumes power, the Association will expect that promises will be honoured quickly. A party in Opposition is not necessarily the same party when it becomes the Government and quite often pre-election promises are pigeonholed until just before the electors are entitled to another vote. This is not a pre-judgement on the Labor Party it is a realisation of what happens in politics.
Regardless of the result the Association is entitled to better communication with the Government. Party political neutrality should not be construed as passive acceptance of any decision affecting Public Servants which a Government makes.
Loyalty is a two-edged sword. Any Government has a right to expect loyalty and efficiency from its Public Services with this right comes an obligation to see that Civil Servants receive a fair deal in return.