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David Thorp


Australian public service agencies (Federal & State) need to be de-politicised and opened up to Parliament and the community. Their job should be to advise all MPs (including the Opposition, not just the Government) so as to enhance the quality of informed political debate and help develop better competing policy proposals. Wherever possible they should engage openly with the community (especially professional experts) on how to solve public policy problems, rather than developing (poorer) plans in secret to be announced with political fanfare and then defended against all reason and evidence.
Current secrecy enshrined in Cabinet-in-Confidence rules is an anachronism in a modern democracy. Such secrecy should be strictly limited (through independent governance measures linked to Parliament) to matters with genuinely material negative repercussions for the public interest, e.g. national security.
To enable this new approach, public service leaders should be appointed by and accountable to Parliament, rather than Ministers. Then when Ministers chose not to take their frank & fearless advice (a practice that has all but disappeared under current governance), this will be transparent to the community and will need to be justified by the Minister and Government.
This approach is especially critical in Treasury, which should be a defender of rational decision-making for optimal allocation of public funds, and whose advice on economic & fiscal matters, being largely analytical, can be readily reviewed and contested by other experts.
Further thoughts on reforming Treasury are at: davidthorp.net/economics/transformation

and broader ideas on reforming Australia's public sector governance and constitution are at: davidthorp.net/australia