Those days are long gone and so it seems, is the commitment to the Premier’s personal commandment on that day that he would no longer tolerate the State’s Public Sherpa’s, oops, Servants (see Sherpa's Revolt for the background of that) speaking publicly about Government policy. That decree had been provoked by a number of government agency bosses who had recently made public statements regarding the direction government should be taking in the future.
As a fairly new recruit to the big table, I remember being both impressed and fully supportive of the directive. To me, the Premier had it right – the Sherpa shouldn’t lead the expedition… our elected representatives should set the policy agenda and the public service should provide the administrative support required to enact the agenda of the government of the day.
Back then, us Chiefs of Staff were told in no uncertain terms to ensure the heads of our respective agencies understood that the media was not the appropriate forum in which to float policy ideas. That seemed to work, for a while at least.
But check out today’s media:
- Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has written an opinion piece for the West Australian Newspaper and appeared live on ABC talkback declaring that juvenile offending is “rapidly spiralling out of control” calling for a higher rate of juvenile detention (and effectively shifting blame to the Courts and Corrective Services for the current juvenile crime rate).
- And Road Safety Council Chairman D’Arcy Holman is again on the front foot by appearing live on radio 6PR proposing all manner of government policy in the area of road safety.
This comes after a couple of weeks during which a Departmental THIN report ruled out keeping our MP’s in touch with current IT trends (Col Pot: No iPad for you!), the Public Sector Commissioner said the Premier’s dismissal of a senior media adviser was not justified and the Economic Regulation Authority contradicted the Premier and Energy Minister’s declaration that a re-merged Synergy and Verve would reduce upward pressure on electricity tariffs.
I really don’t know what happened to the Premier’s dislike of public sector employees publicly leading the state’s policy agenda but with less than a year before the next election, it will be important for him to clarify with the public whether the dog is indeed in control of its tail.