Career Public Service and Administrative Reform in Australia

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7 Citations (Scopus)


The career service has been a central feature of Australian public administration
since the nineteenth century. Until recently its status was seemingly unassailable
although it had been modified in practice. This centrality depended, however,
upon the dominance of a particular philosophy which supported and reinforced a
distinctive conception of the public service.
In the 1980s management philosophies appeared and assumed a great
significance in the Australian public sector. They promoted principles that
conflicted with traditional notions: inter aha change rather than stability, results
rather than process and level rather than position appointments. Lateral as well
as career appointments became acceptable for general management positions.
These ideas served to challenge the career service, most emphatically at the
senior levels.
In seeking to examine the current significance of the career service a number
of questions have to be considered. An initial task is to clarify what has been
meant by traditional and contemporary ideas of career service: both conceptions
of the career service and its practice have varied substantially during the
twentieth century. A second issue is that an array of characteristics have
commonly (and officially) been attached to the concept. This suggests the need
to identify a core concept as a basis for analysis and to differentiate between the
essence of the career service and its broader, associated features. Thirdly, there
is an important distinction to be made between a system which provides for
careers and the special attributes of a career in the public service. To what extent
has there been a public-service profession with distinctive characteristics?
Finally, a career service is still purported to exist even though it differs
markedly from the traditional system. Under what conditions can it still be
deemed to be a career service? Where does one draw the line? These types of
questions provide the basis for examining the prospects for the career service in
the Australian public service (APS). This article focuses on that part of the
career service that has been most subject to change - the senior public service
- although much of the discussion applies also to the public service as a
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)345-360
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Review of Administrative Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1991


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