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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 3070

AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION UNDER A LABOR GOVERNMENT

Photo of Whitlam, Gough

Whitlam, Gough

Period of Service: 05/12/1972 to 11/11/1975

More information about Whitlam, Gough on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/11/1973

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 3070

THE SIR ROBERT GARRAN MEMORIAL ORATION
" AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION UNDER A LABOR GOVERNMENT"
BY
THE PRIME MINISTER, MR. E. G. WHITLAM, M. P.,
CANBERRA, 12 7.4OVEMIBER, 1973
Let me say simply that it is a great honour to deliver the
Garran Memorial Oration in 1973, 14 years after my father delivered
the inaugural Oration. I know how deeply he felt honoured by the
invitation to inaugurate the series of lectures to honour his great
former chief. You will understand something of my feelings at this
moment when I use my father's words of 14 years ago to introduce the
1973 Oration. My father said this of Robert Garran:
" It was an exhilarating experience, for to me he was always
more than a high official, more than a skilled Parliamentary
Draftsman, more than an erudite constitutional lawyer, more
than a figure of social importance; to me, as to others,
he was a person of remarkable distinction.
" As a permanent head it was a real satisfaction and a pleasure
to discuss a problem with him. In the less complex matters,
so long as one was thoroughly prepared with the ascertainable
facts, and was able to present them concisely and in their
proper relation and proportion and indicate the contingencies
and this was what he would expect his conclusion was
unhesitating and decisive.
" In the more complex matters, where principles were involved
which required discussion, the discussion was free, subject only,
of course, to the limits of relevance; there was, on his part,
no restriction to orthodoxies or conventional thinking but a
hospitality to all ideas that might have a bearing on the problem
in hand, an enlightened weighing of pros and cons, and a firm
choice of the course to be pursued."
Those words well describe a great public servant, the
ideal public servant. They certainly described Sir Robert Garran.
It is more than perhaps filial loyalty which allows me to say that
they came aptly from their author. It is not without significance
in my own career, in my own attitude to the Public Service, to the
role of the Public Service, the duties and responsibilities of the
Public Service and to the role of Government, that I lived my boyhood
here in Canberra as the son of a great public servant among whose
colleagues were great public servants and that I am Autai'
first Prime iMinister with that particular background.
Sir Robert Garran's place in the annals of the Australian
nation is as unique as it is distinguished.

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The first ten years of his public career coincided with
and were inspired by Australia's march to nationhood, an event
in which he played an important, if secondary, role at the time,
as secretary to various committees promoting the federal movement.
Garran' s energy and creative genius were immediately
channelled into the establishment of the new nation. He was
appointed Secretary to the Attorney-General's Department, in whi h
office he served over a period of thirty-one years, and from 1910
held also the office of Solicitor-General.
A significant and lasting contribution by Sir Robert
Garran is, of course, to be found in The Annotated Constitution
of the Commonwealth of Australia, the authorship of which he shared
with Sir John Quick.
As one of his successors in the office of Solicitor-
General, the late Sir Kenneth Bailey, has written:-
" The work at once became a classic. Ever since, no careful
opinion on an Australian Constitutional point has been
written without seeing what " Quick and Garran" had to say
about it." Any of us who have studied the law or been involved in
public administration would, I think, agree with this view.
Garran saw the adoption of the Constitution not as an
end of a process, but as a beginning.
If Garran took justifiable pride in the work of the
Constitution, as the outcome of 10 years' work, and saw it as a
suitable basis for a national government, he nevertheless recognised
its inadequacies and saw that as time passed, as circumstances
changed, so it would be necessary for the Constitution itself to be
amended. In his posthumously published autobiography Sir Robert
remarked " that hitherto amendment of the Constitution has been
piecemeal and that something more systematic is now needed."
I shall not tonight be dealing very much with the
Constitution but I think it worth recalling the words of one who
had so much to do with its framing and its interpretation. It
is worth recalling that he had no illusions about the inadequacies
of the admittedly very great work in which he participated.
There has been a convention on the Constitution this year. There
are to be re ferendums to amend the Constitution next month. Last
week I introduced bills for three amendments and foreshadowed a
bill for a fourth amendment which will be put to the people next
year. I have to say, however, that given the experiences of the
Convention in Sydney in August, given the political difficulties
in attaining any amendment and the difficulties even of getting a
referendum for an amendment put to the people, then I have to
concede that the consummation of Sir Robert Garran's true, wise
and absolutely accurate remarks will be reached only with the
greatest difficulty. To balance that seeming pessimism, let me say
that a determined Government, a Government clear on what it wants to
do for Australia, can find means of living with the Constitution.
The Constitution imposes great limitatio ns but the Constitution is
not an alibi.

Garran joined the Public Service in its infancy, along with
many other able men from all walks of life who were inspired by the
creation of the new nation.
He joined the service of Australia at a crucial time, for
public servants, as for politicians, at a time when the demands on
the creative capacities of all those engaged in nation-building
were very great. There are demands, similar in magnitude, pressing on us
today in the challenging environment of the Seventies.
Tonight I wish to speak principally about the role of the
Australian Public Service under a Labor administration, as that Labor
administration responds to the immense challenge imposed upon it
by the decision of the Australian people just under a year ago.
It is not always realised that Australia itself was in a unique
positio n in the English-speaking democracies. None of those other
democracies Great Britain, the United States, New Zealand, Canadahad
been for so long without a change of Government. In the United
States one would have to go back to the Republican hegemony of 24
years from the election of Lincoln to the election of Cleveland.
In Britain itself, from which we take both our Parliamentary system
and our civil service tradition, one has to go back to 1807
to the Tories under Liverpool, Canning and Wellington, from 1807
to 1832 to find a comparable period of unbroken rule by a single
party. That so ancient a parallel has been equalled only in some
of our Australian States may not be without its relevance.
However that may be, it should be recognised that our situation
when we came into government was unique in modern English-speaking
democracies, unique in the Australian National Parliament, unique
for an Australian National Government and unique for the Public
Service responsible to that Parliament and that Government. Yet
this change, unique in so many respects, coincided with and indeed
was largely created by, a desire for clear and rapid change on the
part of the Australian people. The demands upon Government,
upon administration, are greater than they have been at any time in
human history. All governments are expected to make changes and
deliver benefits with a precision and promptitude never before
expected or experienced in history. When a new government comes in
after so long an absence, those demands, those pressures are
accelerated and intensified.
I have sometimes quoted the complaint of Garran' s
co-worker and part-contemporary, Alfred Deakin, about " the
impossibility of governing with a reporter at one's elbow".
He had a lot to complain about at the same time he was complaining
he was, even as Prime Minister of Australia, the anonymous regular
correspondent and reporter for the London Morning Post. No television,
no tapes. Politicians are not so blessed today.' There can be no
doubt that in modern times the immediacy of the media itself is a
strong force generating change and sometimes irresistible pressures
for change by raising exceptionally high expectations about the
potential and performance of administrations.

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For any Government to measure up to these expectations
and to meet these pressures it was inevitable that there would be
changes in the administrative structure.
It is inevitable that political change will bring with
it administrative change in terms of modern politics. This is
not to say, at all, that our Public Service has to be politicallyorientated,
or motivated. It does not.
We as a Government were and are anxious to maintain the
fundamental tradition of a non-political Public Service in the true
sense. This is not to say that public servants will not be involved
in matters relating to politics, rather that their involvement will
be as loyal, as dedicated and as intense regardless of what
Government is in power.
Some doubtless were sceptical whether this tradition
could be maintained. Could the administrative machine that had
been controlled by our political opponents for 23 years respond
to a significant political change to a Government charged with
urgently needed reforms and impelled by a philosophy which involved
a shift from long-established positions?
No doubt the Public Service was equally anxious to see
whether we would be able to adjust effectively to the business of
government, how we would go about the task of governing.
But the significant political change does involve a shift
from long-established positions; it does require an administrative
response of a different order. It is not a difference of a political
order; the difference lies in the magnitude of the challenge.
Under this Labor Administration, the outstanding need
for change, restructuring and expansion arises from our particular
view of the role of the national government. We assert that the
national government has responsibility for a whole range of matters
which under previous Governments were deemed either to be the
responsibility of State Governments or the responsibility of no
government at all. This basic approach of ours was, I believe,
upheld by the people at the election. It is exactly one year ago
tomorrow since I delivered the Policy Speech which outlined our
program. In that speech I said:
" Before this campaign is out, I shall have completed
years as a member of Parliament. The basic foundations of
this speech lie in my very first speeches in the -Parliament,
because I have never wavered from my fundamental belief that
until the national government became involved in great matters
like schools and cities, this nation would never fulfil its
real capabilities."
And in the penultimate paragraph I said:
" We shall need the help and seek the help of the best Australians.
We shall rely of course on Australia's great Public Service, but
we shall seek and welcome the advice and co-operation from beyond
the confines of Canberra."

These sentences do I believe encapsulate the course
that has been pursued by this Administration, in its program and
in choosing the men and women to carry out this program.
Administrative and Advisory Support for the Government
In opening the first session of Parliament on 27 February
the Governor-General said the Government saw the importance of
certain principles upon which we should base our program for
change. One of these principles was the need for Government to
have available machinery and advice to plan for the inevitable and
accelerating change now occurring in all modern communities.
The tradition of democracies based on the British model
is that elected governments have available to them a career
Public Service which is politically neutral and designed to give
administrative support and advice to whatever government may be
in office. But in addition, it has been practice to rely along
with the Service on other forms of support. One of the marks of
our first twelve months is the extension and deepening of that
kind of support to enable us to meet the challenges of office.
In broad terms, the system of support which we have
developed while in office is a blending of five elements
The Public Service, impartial, responsible
and professional
Task forces and Committees of enquiries, with
all or a large part of the membership consisting
of outside experts, highly competent in their
particular fields
Commissions and other continuing authorities,
drawing staff from inside and outside the
Service investigating and managing new areas
of Government initiatives
A new form of long term priorities advise a
" think-tank" which we have named the
Priorities Review Staff
Consultants and outside advisers for Ministers.
The Public Service
My Government took over a large and efficient Public
Service which, since its foundation at the start of the century,
has built up a reputation for efficiency and probity which
places it in the front rank of the Civil Service Systems of
western democratic countries. 6/

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The Government was, however, elected to carry out its
declared policies and it quickly set about the task. It was not
until after the election that the leaders of the Labor
Parliamentary Party the new Ministers were able to seek the
help of the Public Service Board and others in the Public Service
on how the Service should be restructured. Some difficulties were
encountered, and to an extent these difficulties could be
attributed to some lack of understanding on the part of the
Government and the Public Service of each other's purposes and
processes. In the interests of good Government, I have since
announced that, as long as I am Prime Minister, there will be an
opportunity for pre-election discussion on the structure and the
working of Departments between Members of the Opposition and
senior officials. Naturally, these discussions will not embrace
matters of a party political nature. They will simply ensure
that whenever there is another change of Government, the changeover
as it affects the nation's administration, will take place
as smoothly as possible.
In retrospect, the quite massive changes which can be
seen as reflections of the underlying new orientation of our
policies were brought about with reasonable speed and remarkably
little friction. The changes were by no means revolutionary; they left
the system and the principles on which it is based intact, but
they were substantial and are beginning to have their effects
in achieving our purposes.
All the important changes can be seen as reflections
of the underlying new orientation of our policies. What we have
done is to re-structure departments of state to accord more with
the thrust of these policies. We have brought an emphasis in
departmental strength to accord with the emphasis in the
Government's administration. In so doing we have moved in the
direction of organising departments on a functional basis, of
distributing responsibility in groups which are as homogeneous
as possible. This has led, in part, to the amalgamation of
departments which is now in process.
I am aware that amalgamation as a process can come under
question. I am aware of the problems of size and in particular
the problems of manageability for a single minister and a single
head of department. I am aware of management problems, of staff
morale problems, and public relations problems.
But set against these problems and far outweighing them,
are the advantages of unification. There are the economies
resulting from the reduction of inter-departmental barriers
e. g. the resolution within a single department of the differences
that arise notoriously between separate and competing
departments. There are internal economies economies of scale. .7/

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But the primary factor as I see it, determining the size
and manageability of large departments, is coherence of subject
matter. It is this coherence that has prompted many of the
structural changes that we have introduced.
Take transport. For too long, we have seen responsibility
f or transport divided between the Australian Government and the
States, without effective co-ordination between the four main arms
road, rail, air and sea. At the Australian level, we are now
moving rapidly towards the amalgamation of the Departments of
Civil Aviation and Transport.
The desirability of amalgamating the Departments of
Transport and Civil Aviation rests on the improvement which is
to be expected in the development and co-ordination of general
transportation policies, the more effective determination of
expenditure priorities and resource allocation and on the greater
ability to harmonise the totality of transport activities with
the Government's other objectives in economic and social fields.
A size problem may arise associated with air and sea navigation
systems. To meet this eventuality we intend to establish
operating agencies functioning separately from Departments.
Take Defence. We are fully aware of the importance of
a highly efficient and mobile defence force. But equally, we
are aware that there is no immediately foreseeable threat to the
security of this country. We are bringing together under the
one administration what should after all be an integrated system
of defence of our country and its interests, and in so doing, are
following the example of other countries. So here again, the
changes we have made in the administration have reflected basic
policy objectives. We are in the process of planning the amalgamation of
the Departments of Works and Housing. This amalgamation will
give us another more co-ordinated way of achieving important
policy objectives in housing and construction areas.
We are considering abolition of the Department of
Supply with transfer of its functions to Secondary Industry
and other areas.
Restructuring of the public service is also evident in
the field of social welfare. Here we have attempted to move from
the fragmented system of our predecessors to a broader concept of
caring for the total needs of an individual. To this end, we
have brought together in the remodelled Department of Social
Security many functions previously handled in other Departments.
And by stripping the Department of Health of a complicated system
of national insurance and payment to individuals, we are allowing
it to concentrate on the important problems of medicine and health,
and on health care delivery. 8/

7
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In other areas the achievement of our objectives has
called f or the establishment of new Departments. Each of these
Departments is a viable unit, necessary for the attainment of
the Government's policy aims and new initiatives.
The greatest single area of new initiative is in the
cities the places where most Australians live. The time has
come for us to take fresh initiatives in making our cities
places where people can achieve the fullest enjoyment and self
fulfilment in living, as well as to work efficiently and without
unnecessary inconvenience. For this purpose, we established the
Department of Urban and Regional Development. This Department is
at the centre of some of the most important of our policy
initiatives. Here again, we have an example of a Department
comprehending a wide but wholly coherent subject matter.
In my Policy Speech last December, I foreshadowed the
establishment of a separate Department of Aboriginal Affairs
to have offices in each State to give the Australian Government
a genuine presence in the States. The Department of Aboriginal
Affairs is now a fact and is working to give effect to the will
of the people as expressed overwhelmingly in the 1967 referendum.
The Department of the Media will be able to work more
closely with the radio and television industry and for instance
have oversight of the legislation which regulates the industry.
Let me describe what we have done in the words of the new head
of the Department of the Media, himself a man brought from
experience in the business and television world to head our new
department. Mr. Oswin said
" Coming to a decision to form a Department of the
Media didn't mean starting everything from scratch.
A lot of its components already existed and many
of them were functioning efficiently and well, but
they were all over the place responsible to
departments with which they had little in common..."
was a matter of bringing together under a
common Ministry, Government services that were
often misplaced and regrettably, even neglected."
The Public Service has responded magnificently to the
challenges we have set it. But it would simply have been unable
to achieve all that we require in the time available. So, while
retaining it as an expanding administrative centre for all our
activities, we now have working with it in varying relationships,
or independently, many new bodies to provide specialistic
assistance to the Administration. 9/

There is a further question beyond that of the limits
on the professional public service to carry out all the tasks
required, in the time required. It is in Australia' s interest
and in the interest of the Public Service itself that there
should be greater mobility between business and the universities
and between the federal and state public services. For a job in
the public administration to be done competently it is not always
necessary that the appointment be for life or retirement on
reaching a certain age. Clearly, many valuable men and women
will be unwilling or unable to accept appointment on those terms.
Sometimes a specific task involved is of limited duration. The
task should not be left undone or the skills lost through
inflexibility in the Public Service structure.
Task Forces and Other Inquiries
To help us to focus quickly on the many new areas of
policy initiative, we have brought in academics and practical
men from the private sector.
First, there is the task force. In the main, the object
of the task force is to produce in a short time a report by a
person of stature in the community who is not part of the regular
Public Service. We have provided him with assistance some from
the. Public Service itself and some from our valued group of
consultants and Ministerial advisers with the object of
assembling material quickly and without the problems associated
with departmental boundaries.
The result has been a series of most helpful reports.
The concept of the task force is in the main that the leader
of it assumes responsibility for the report. The task force
helps and advises him but doesn't blunt the acuteness of his
own perceptions and the purport of his policy recommendations.
Perhaps the best known of the task forces was that led by
Dr. Coomnbs, in his investigation of the continuing expenditure
policies of the previous Government with a view to finding room
for our own higher priority programs. Another task force worked
under Mr. Rattigan, Chairman of the Tariff Board and produced the
report which led to the 25% cut in tariffs.
I believe the task force technique to be a most effective
way of producing a high quality report in a short time which
combines the skills and insights of prominent citizens with the
background and experience of the actual working of the Government
machine which officials and ministerial advisers can contribute.
Second, there is the committee of inquiry. In this area
men and women from many walks of life have joined new commissions
and committees; since we came into office, no less than 70 short
term inquiries have been appointed. To mention a few, they range
from inquiries into Aboriginal land rights, to an inquiry into
the Burdekin, into the maritime industry, into the protection of
privacy, into employment statistics, into FM radio, into
rehabilitation and compensation, into legal aid, into nursing
home fees and into the components of growth in urban centres.

The use of specialist commissions and committees of
inquiry serves a number of valuable purposes. These include:
immediate action on a wider range of issues than would otherwise
be possible, many being issues where the electorate, having
given us a mandate, is wanting quick results;
availability of specialised skills and advice not always
required on a bng-term basis;
access to advice and information on developments and research
in industry, academic institutions, the trade union movement
and other community areas;
fostering of co-operation with, and participation by the States,
a matter of special importance in our Federal system of government;
providing a key channel of communication between Parliament
and the people.
Some might argue that some of the matters dealt with
initially in this way could properly have been dealt with by existing
departments. However, such a course would have meant an unbearable
strain on the Service because of the wide range of new matters,
many of which the Service had not been asked to deal with before.
The Service has been and is fully occupied responding
to other initiatives of the Government, as well as ensuring the
normal conduct of business.
The response by talented people of wide experience outside
the Public Service to join us in our endeavours has been quite remarkable.
I mention just a few.
Mr. Justice Woodhouse, of the New Zealand Supreme Court
came to head the Inquiry into a National Scheme of Rehabilitation
and Compensation, and his colleague Mr. Justice Meares from the
Supreme Court of New South Wales.
Mr. Justice Else-Mitchell, Professor Mathews and Mr.
G. J. Dusseldorp on Land Tenure;
Sir James Vernon and others on the Post Office Inquiry;
Mr. Justice Hope and a number of others on the Committee
of Inquiry into the National Estate;
Dr. Scotton and Dr. J. Deeble on Health Insurance;
Mr. McGarvie on Discrimination in Employment and
Occupation together with a number of others including Mr.
G. Polites from the Australian Council of Employers'
Federation and Mr. J. Petrie from the A. C. T. U.
I invite your attention to the range of the inquiries
as well as to the names of those conducting them.

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With the active co-operation of State Governments, we
have been able to secure the services of several State judges to
chair some of these committees.
In making appointments we have, we believe, succeeded
in bringing together people with relevant expertise from all
sections of the community.
Committees of Inquiry have, of course, been used in the
past. But the record shows that the system has not always been
well used I need only mention the fate of the Report of the
Committee of Economic Enquiry whose members were Sir John Crawford,
Professor Peter Karmel, Mr. Kenneth Myer and the late Mr. D. G.
Molesworth under the Chairmanship of Sir James Vernon or the McCarthy
Committee on Dairying. Not the least regrettable feature of the
treatment of the Vernon Committee report at the hands of the then
Government was that it must necessarily have reduced the willingness
of men and women of the highest qualifications, men and women with
very great demands on their time and experience, to serve in a
similar capacity. Whilst I am realistic enough to know that all
recommendations of Committees of Inquiry cannot necessarily be
adopted at least immediately our intention is a positive one.
Most reports are published and acted upon, not shelved
and forgotten. A real contribution is made to public
administration and to the development of policies acceptable to
the community. In this way we are restoring the use of inquiries to
their proper role in Government.
Commissions and Other Continuing Bodies
The willing response of the Public Service and the
efforts of task forces and other instruments of inquiry would not
in themselves have been sufficient to achieve our purposes. So we
have added greatly to the range of support which in greater or lesser
degree has always been associated with government in the field
of statutory commissions and other such authorities.
Since we have taken office, we have made decisions to
appoint no less than 25 continuing bodies to assist us in achieving
our policies. Those already at work include such diverse bodies
as the Cities Commission, the Child Care Standards Committee, the
Commission on Consumer Standards, the National Pipeline Authority,
and the National Commission on Social Welfare. Others are awaiting
the passage of legislation to enable their establishment, for
example, the Industries Assistance Commission and tne Petroleum and
Minerals Authority. The Interim Committees for the Schools
Commission and the Pre-School Commission have advanced their work
quite splendidly, while awaiting their establishment as statutory
bodies. These bodies will in part be supplied from the Public
Service. But in part they will draw to them men and women of
experience in their calling. They will be freer to operate than
the Public Service itself, though necessarily functioning within
the broad framework of government policy and administration. These
are performing a task of administration, often in new and uncharted

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areas, which will have important and positive effects on many areas of
life and activity in the community.
The Priorities Review Staff
One of the difficulties of government is to ensure
continuing challenges to think and plan more than a few months ahead.
There is a real danger that, unless there is a constant input to
government on this side, the day to day pressures will lead to
shorter and shorter term policies, to government that is reactive
rather than inspirational in quality and therefore loses its sense
of direction and purpose. We believe that the best way to maintain
an effective input of longer term thinking is to establish special
machinery for the purpose. It is true that particular Departments
will think months and years ahead and indeed the Treasury for
some time has been preparing three and five year estimates. But
that is not enough.
What we have done is to establish a new group within
the Department of the Special Minister of State which we are
calling the Priorities Review Staff. It consists of highly skilled
specialists with high academic and professional qualifications.
Its purpose is to review Government programs, not with
the object of duplicating or censoring the work of specialist
departments, but with the object of advising ministers on long-range
priorities and planning. It is based on the well-established
Priorities Review Committee headed by Lord Rothschild in Great Britain.
This venture, I believe, marks a significant step
forward in orderly national management and long-range planning.

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Ministerial Staff
As the business of government grows faster and the
range of political involvement of the people extends, Ministers
must necessarily look to more help from their own immediate
offices. It has been traditional to think of the Ministerial
Private Secretary as an efficient and experienced officer of
middle rank, capable of maintaining effective liaison with the
Department and of seeing that the Minister is where he needs
to be to keep his many commitments.
But with the present need to develop and maintain
new policy initiatives involving people outside the Department
and the authorities associated with it, we have found a need
to provide Ministers with greater help on the policy side.
I have no hesitation in saying that the help Ministers have
obtained from their offices has relieved Departments of
involvement in party political matters and has given ministers
support as they have forged ahead in their own particular fields.
In machinery terms, we have improved the quality of the
contribution made by Ministerial staff by increasing both the
numbers and the salaries paid.
Noalte e iiseilstaff have come from outside
the Public Service. There is provision in each Minister's staff
for a departmental liaison officer who remains on the departmental
establishment and undertakes duties directly connected with the
Department. This preserves an avenue for able young departmental
officers to gain valuable experience in the operations of government.
Ministers, of course, are free to choose their staff and many
of them have made personal staff positions available to career
public servants. I have, this year also arranged for substantial increases
in both the numbers and levels of staff available to the
Opposition parties. Again, in my view, this was a very necessary
change. I might point out that the Ministerial personal staff
from outside the professional Public Service have no security of
tenure. They depend wholly on the whim or fate of the Minister.
In no sense can they be said to have been obtruded into the
structure of the Public Service. They are part of the Government
in its political and personal sense and in that sense, they are
responsible to the people, their paymasters and political masters
in the same way as Ministers.

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I should further point out that this development
in no way represents a departure from the principles of the
Westminster system. Central to that system is the principle
that Ministers as individuals and the Cabinet as a whole must
exercise real control over the Public Service and accept full
responsibility for policy. In Australia, the staff of Ministers
has, for various reasons, remained far smaller and junior than
in Britain or Canada. In Britain, the Minister is supported by
Parliamentary Under-Secretaries and by Parliamentary Private
Secretaries as well as a far larger staff. The function of the
Parliamentary Under-Secretary is deemed unconstitutional in
Australia. It is a perfectly objective statement to say that
there have been notable cases in Australia in the past of a
remarkable lack of ministerial control over departments and
over policy. The lack of competent staff undoubtedly contributed
to this. The Canadian model has been descrined as " politicallvorientated
yet operationally sensitive" staff and a " non-parti'san,
operationally-orientated yet politically sensitive" department.
We have not of course adopted that model, but to the extent
that the appointment of a competent personal staff assists
ministers to exercise their proper constitutional authority
we are enhancing the basic Westminster tradition.
Implications for the Public Service
All this means that government is on the move.
I recognise that this imposes strains on the Public
Service. Perhaps there are two particular problems which I
might discuss in a little more detail in the remaining time
available. These relate to the process I have described, by
which many new people and authorities are being added to the
familiar administrative scene; and the emphasis we are placing
on open government. First, the influx of new people and new skills. During
the war years, feeling were expressed which, although more intense,
were much the same as those of which I am aware today. They
relate to the fears which permanent public servants have because
of the possibilities that their own career prospects will be
diminished, or the standards of the Service lowered, as a result
of the influx. It is true that the sweep and pace of the recent
changes have hardly been equalled in peace time in Australian
history. Though as I say this I should make the point I do not
expect the growth of the Public Service in 1973-74 to be more than
This is a figure which has been exceeded on several recent
occasions. You will all be aware of the task force I set up under
the leadership of Dr. Coombs which identified for the Government
a number of areas of spending that could be reviewed. His report
concluded: ' Existing government programs are taxing the resources
of the Australian Public Service and it is clear that
it will be subject to increasing pressure. Administrative
and management skills are important and scarce resources.
It is essential that the cost of existing and new expenditure
programs in terms of these skills be taken into account in

Government decisions and that every effort should
be made to use such skills to the best advantage...
The Public Service Board as the primary authority on
establishment matters must be given a sensible degree
of control in seeking to establish a reasonably uniform
classification structures and to avoid the competitive
ways destructive to wage-justice and reasonable economy
in Government. The fact that the Board should recognise
special competitive elements in particular situations
does not invalidate the need for such control. This
control, with appropriate modifications to deal with
special circumstances, is relevant also to the agencies
outside the Public Service itself such as statutory
corporations.' Some of the additional staff on the payroll of the
Australian Government will merely be a transfer from other places
where, in one way or another, the taxpayer is footing the Bill;
for example Health Insurance now administered by more than
100 private bureaucracies.
The history of the war and immediate post war years
may be of some encouragement, because there is general agreement
that the Public Service today is as efficient as anywhere in
the world, and probably more efficient than most.
During the war years the size of the public service
doubled and the number of departments grew from 13 to
There was great pressure on the public service,
which did not have many of the skills required.
Various people were brought in from outside the
public service, perhaps the most notable being the late Essington
Lewis, then Chief General Manager of Broken Hill Propriety Limited,
who became Director-General of Munitions, but there were others,
including Lawrence Hartnett, another great industrialist.
New people were brought into such areas as rationing,
prices control, manpower control, credit control and censorship,
which were established under National Security Regulations.
Numerous Boards and Committees were set up also to
facilitate communications between agencies, to carry out desired
executive functions or to conduct investigations into specific
topics. Many of the people brought into the public service
in that period attained high office. To mention only some of
the now retired Permanent Heads, there were Sir Kenneth Bailey,
Sir Henry Bland, Sir Allan Brown, Sir John Crawford, Dr Coombs,
Professor Fin Crisp, Mr Ted Hook and Sir Richard Randall.
There are others among them who are still serving in high office,
including a number as Permanent Heads.
We seek more men of their calibre for the tasks of
today, for we are engaged on a new operation mercifully in
a period of peace.

-16-
There is a new light on the hill, if I may recall
a phrase of the late Ben Chifley, and we need all the skills
we can command as we move towards it.
With the introduction of new people and new skills,
the existing Public Service is placed in a more competitive
situation both in relation to competition for higher jobs and
competition for influence in the policy making process.
I see only advantage in increased advertising of
senior Public Service positions as open to people outside the
Service, and indeed I agree with the report of the Boyer Committee
that the morale and self respect of the Public Service could
only be enhanced i-f it felt it were standing on its own feet
by force of merit rather than by restriction of competition.
I am sure, from what I have seen of it, that it can so stand.
We have not altered the traditional role of the
Public Service in the policy making process, but by greatly
increasing our sources of policy advice and by involving public
servants in our task forces and commissions, we have provided
for a meeting of minds, a re-stimulation which is coupled with
a leadership from the political level. Where this has resulted
in tension it has in the main been creative tension and that is
our object. The Public Service has not only demonstrated in
the last twelve months that it can work impartially for a
new Government after 23 years with the old, it has for the
most part shown the benefit of its inter-reaction with the
Government's other advisers and an enthusiasm for working with
others in pursuing the policies of an activist Government.
Perhaps the change in Government had its greatest Public
Service implication in relation to the Permanent Heads of
Departments. Unlike all other public servants, Permanet Heads
are appointed by the Government of the day. They have a
continuing tenure but they also have close personal dealings
with their Ministers.
Before the election there was talk of wholesale sackings;
some observers seemed to expect that we would change the Public
Service by replacing its leaders. This did not happen and at
no stage did we consider it desirable. On some occasions,
associated not only with changes of Government but with, for
example, reshuffling of portfolios in existing Governments, it
is desirable that Permanent Heads be transferred to other
Departments or other duties in the interests of good Government.
Like previous Governments, we have made some changes at the top
of the Service, but this has been done in a manner which does
not damage the tradition of an impartial Public Service.
We all tend to think of the Permanent Head as a policy
adviser. Important and glamorous as this aspect of their work
undoubtedly is, it should not be allowed to obscure the very
real responsibility that Permanent heads carry as general managers
of departments under their Ministers.

-17-
Permanent Heads should be ever mindful of the
need for ensuring that their departments are efficiently
managed, of the need for cost-effectiveness, of their role
in ensuring that staff savings are achieved where possible,
and of the need for leadership of their departments in
such matters as ensuring that personnel are developed to
meet -emerging needs of public administration.
Open Government Greater participation in the affairs of Government by
concerned people in the community generally has been a theme
in this lecture. We want to extend this sense of participation
far beyond the use of particular individuals who have skills
currently needed. We want the Australian people to know the
facts, to know the needs, to know the choices before them.
This is really at the heart of what has been called " open
government". There come times and we recognise this when
decisions must be taken, or are better or more quickly taken,
if there is not at every stage a need for the decision makers
to discuss publicly and explain publicly what they are doing.
A balance has to be struck. I think we are striking that
balance. I myself am reporting regularly to the press and
telling them promptly of decisions that we are making.
We are tabling reports in Parliament, not just the annual reports
of statutory bodies but many papers providing useful general
information where there is a public interest and where other
interests are not compromised.
Legislation foreshadowed in my policy speech as the
Freedom of Information Act will be shortly before the Parliament.
Meanwhile, much is already being done to provide greater information
to the public, particularly by the release of various reports.
At the same time, the Government is very aware of the need to
ensure adequate privacy for the individual.
A review is in train of the legislation to remove
unreasonable restrictions on public servants which inhibit
them from discussing in public matters of public and official
interest. There will still be a proper observance of the
conventions that public servants do not justify or propagandise
policies. That is the job of Ministers. But within the
proper conventions there can be a lot done to relieve public
servants of unnecessary restriction.
We will be bringing down archives legislation which
will clarify the rules relating to access to official records
and facilitate such access. It will also greatly improve the
service that the public gets when they want to consult some
of the more ancient records.
Another aspect of the involvement of the community
generally in government is the benefit which can flow in
both directions from extended arrangements under which staff
of the Public Service spend periods in industry, commerce,
universities and the like and for people from those areas
to spend periods attached to Public Service departments.

-18-
I quote the Fulton Committee. It had this to Aay
' Determined efforts are needed to bring about the temporary
interchange of staff with private industry and commerce,
nationalised industry and local government on a much
larger scale than hitherto. War-time experience proves
beyond doubt the value of such movement in promoting
mutual knowledge and understanding.'
At the same time, while I intend to see arrangements
developed in this area, it is only proper to note also the
warning given by the Fulton Committee that the exchanges should
take place in a professional atmosphere, fostered by the
fact that the majority of public servants expect to make a
career of their period in the Service. They should not see
themselves, or be seen, as in the prospective employment of
business, or something of the necessary confidentiality and
privacy which governments must preserve and protect will be lost.
It is a truism that we live in a changing world.
It is essential that the whole framework of public administration
in Australia be geared to respond to new initiatives of government
demanded by the electorate.
An important factor in this will be the continual
exchange of ideas and discussion of techniques between the
sectors of the economy.
The public sector, which has much to learn from the
private sector, will facilitate this.
But it needs the co-operation of the private sector,
whose interests today demand a better knowledge of the working
of government than ever before.
It may be true that the people get the government
they deserve. It is certainly true that governments get the
Public Service they deserve. The measures, decisions and approaches
I have outlined are designed to promote the efficiency, the
excellence of public administration in Australia, now and for
the future. I close as I began, with a quote from the inaugural
Sir Robert Garran Oration:
" The task before Australia is honourable, and its
efficient discharge would make for a dynamic peace;
to it all the resources, skills and energy that Australia
can command deserve to be committed. The honourable task,
however, could become majestic, and infinitely inspiring,
and the peace could become creative, deep and rich,
and enduring, if there be added what I have termed
Excellence, Excellence in all its fullness."
The pursuit of excellence is still an eminently proper
and desirable goal for Australia, her people, her public
Administration and I believe, her elected Government.
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