Nadir or Renaissance for the Australian Public Service?

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


During this term, the public service was subject to two prime ministerial styles (although Morrison’s short time in office had little impact). Turnbull’s contribution offered an alternative to Abbott’s by moderating some of the latter’s excesses. However, for the public service, two dominant themes remained: politicisation through ministers and advisers, and bureaucratisation through excessive regulation. This was also a period when the austerity programs of Coalition governments were still a central factor, and which conditioned the public service’s operations. The chronic tensions and constraints on the public service produced a reaction: the Australian Public Service (APS) Review was launched.

Trust in the public service has been impaired by its proximity to turbulent governments, decisions that failed or affected delivery of services to citizens, the impact of austerity measures on departmental capability, unpredictable and poorly grounded decision-making by ministers, and the blame game that stigmatised public services directly (critiques about performance) or indirectly (favouring the provision of alternative advice and services). The questions highlighted in this chapter have been issues during this term but have a longer history: relationships between the political executive and the public service; policy capability; and risk aversion and red tape.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom Turnbull to Morrison The Trust Divide
Subtitle of host publicationAustralian Commonwealth Administration 2016-2019
EditorsMark Evans, Michelle Grattan, Brendan McCaffrie
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherMelbourne University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780522876147
ISBN (Print)9780522876130
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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