Retiring Ken Matthews wants public servants to be bolder

johnboy 7 October 2010 5

The Canberra Times has a story on the valedictory speech of former Department of Transport Secretary Ken Matthews who’d like to see more courage from those who will come after him:

”I bet we can all think of instances where the decisions of the properly elected government were clearly and objectively not in the national interest. If we are serious as professional servants of the public, it is a cop-out just to shrug and snigger knowingly and say that the elected government decides what is in the national interests …

”Have we become docile and unassertive in throwing in the towel when our advice, once given, is rejected? There was once a saying that advice given three times was courageous.”

On the other hand, what’s the reward for rocking the boat?

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5 Responses to Retiring Ken Matthews wants public servants to be bolder
Thumper Thumper 6:43 pm 08 Oct 10

public servants to be bolder?

HAHAHAHAHAHA… yeah right, good bye promotions, good bye career.

TheObserver TheObserver 4:00 pm 08 Oct 10

This has been getting a run in Crikey – some of the comments are pretty good:

sepi sepi 2:36 pm 07 Oct 10

The current Defence chief is the one who finally went on the record and told the minister that the Kids Overboard was not reality. I was surprised that he was later made Chief of Defence by the same government.

But in general, I would say going against the stated aims of the minister is a brave move.

‘Public interest’ is not always subjective. Say for example, that means testing the baby bonus would cost more in terms of staff, paperwork, computer systems etc, than just giving it to all new parents automatically. The only reason to means test it, is that focus groups have shown that people are against giving ‘benefits’ to the rich. This is not a case of ‘winners and losers’ but one of public perception. Not everything comes down to winners and losers. In fact more and more it seems that appearing to do the right thing is far more imiportant than actually achieving anything. The Indigenous Intervention is another expensive case of beign seen to do something (but achieving nothing much).

frontrow frontrow 1:34 pm 07 Oct 10

Any public servant who thinks that they work for an objectively measurable public interest is seriously deluded. Every government action involves winners and losers and the determination that one person is more deserving than another is an entirely subjective decision.

JessP JessP 12:01 pm 07 Oct 10

The reward for rocking the boat is avery uncomfortable career (and possibly a quite short one).

Frank and fearless! As a public servant I love to be.

Nice if the government of the day (and Ministers and Advisers) were open and receptive.

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