I don’t know whether I was fortunate or not to have had the following conversation with a long-term civil servant the other day, but this was basically how it progressed:
This guy is a third generation Canberran, who has ‘worked’ his way in a tireless and determined manner to reach the now esteemed and credible rank beyond the middle classes to Executive Level 1 (I assume that means he earns anywhere between about $70 and 95k, depending on the department).
So far this doesn’t sound all that interesting and is nothing more than listening to this guy ‘blowing ones own trumpet’ conversation that is becoming the norm in this town. I’ve noticed that people are keen early in the piece to structure their social interactions with others based on the ‘level’ they have attained in the service, regardless of ability and competency levels.
The intriuging part of the encounter was that this person has also lived in public housing for his entire life in what is now the fairly affluent and leafy suburb of Griffith…but back when he was young, only middle-ranked public servants were provided with a house in that suburb. But it turns out that this house that he occupies was also his parents home. Before that his grandparents also held a lease with the government, on fairly modest rent. Naturally he pays full rent as determined by the government because he earns a very healthy pay packet.
There is just something abnormal with the scenario here – a lease has been held by his family for a very long time, this guy is the third generation to receive, what I would see really as another form of welfare ie. a very stable long-term government income and to compliment this a government provided home. This led me to ask a generic question about what he did at work – the answer was simply, “oh, I’ve worked out over the years that if you form a comfortable relationship with the Branch Head, you can be put on special projects where you really don’t have to be accountable to anyone…I’m now very good at media monitoring as I read all the daily papers”.
After concluding the chat, I began to wonder if this is possibly not an isolated case of lets say a third generation Canberran, whose parents and grandparents were also public servants, provided with all the comforts by the State, have now come to expect the concept of ‘security of tenure’ in all its wonderous forms – ahhh, it was almost as if I could hear the gravy train, whistle blowing, departing somewhere in the distance.