POST WAR AUSTRALIA - PODGER
Humphrey McQueen writes:
constitution makes no mention of a prime minister. Yet John Howard is no
legal fiction. He selects Liberal Party ministers, appoints the head of
his own department, and approves the choices for all the others. Those
arrangements leave Departmental Secretaries doubly dependent on his
Tiernan’s recent book, Responsibility
without power, tracks the rise of the ministerial staffers. A
retired Departmental Secretary, Andrew Podger, has exposed how Howard
has crafted Departmental Secretaries into his political staffers.
a senior public servant before 2005, Podger did nothing to write himself
into the history books but now he has turned himself a footnote by
publishing a memoir in the June issue of Australian
Journal of Public Administration. His theme is the appointing of
Departmental Secretaries, their contracts and performance pay.
experience at the Public Service Board (2002-05) revealed how close an
interest Howard takes in the appointments and performance pay of senior
law does not oblige a government to appoint and reward departmental
heads only on merit. Howard has taken the added precaution of redefining
merit as serving the interests of his government.
a result, Podger alleges, the departmental heads “are being dishonest
or fooling themselves” if they deny their politicisation. “They will
hedge their bets on occasions, limit the number of issues on which to
take a strong stand, be less strident, constrain public comments, limit
or craft more carefully public documents and accept a muddying of their
role and that of political advisers.”
incumbents between 1996 and 1999 acquiesced in the subversion of their
high office for their own gain. Twice, they took the money and ran. The
first time, they accepted five- (and then three-) year contracts as a
pay-off for signing on. Those who did not agree were terminated.
explains that these contracts are like the majority of AWAs: “The term
‘contract’ is a misnomer. There is no negotiation involved or
tailored provisions.” So even the head of the Department administering
WorkChoices either takes it or leaves it.
pay reached the ranks of Departmental Secretary from 1999. The
incumbents saw that none of them was going to get that extra 15% for
standing up to Howard’s “whole of government”. Howard told Podger
that performance pay was a waste of time and money if it did not send
messages. That message has seeped through the ranks of those aspiring to