Sunday, May 01, 2016

Sunday Snippets - flaneuring, refugees and changes in public administration

Watching Clare play hockey this morning, I did a little flaneuring on the side. I hadn't realised that any of the market gardens near Kingsford Smith Airport had survived. More on that in a later post

So much has been happening in the world that it is hard to know where to begin.

Things continue to unwind for the Australian Government.

Tomorrow before the full bench of the High Court
case Number S77 of 2016 between Plaintiff Robert John Day and two defendants from the Commonwealth of Australia will begin. This is the challenge to the Senate voting changes on which the decision about proposed double dissolution election was in part based. I am not sure how much I agree with the views of Malcolm. Mackerras, I don't know enough on the constitutional position, but one sentence in the story struck a chord. Referring to a letter to the editor, Mackerras writes:
It (the letter to the editor) was by Kevin Cox of Ngunnawal and reads: "Frank Marris (Letters, April 7) misses the point of the Malcolm Mackerras and Bob Day High Court challenge. The constitution says we vote for people, not parties. A person, not a party, should decide how to distribute votes if a voter fails to give preferences."
I said that it struck a chord. I have no idea of the constitutional position on which Senator Day's challenge is based, but in the end we do vote for people rather than parties. Obviously party affiliations are important, but we don't have a list system in which you vote for the party first. You can, of course, but we have the choice not too.

Meantime, the Government has yet another problem on the refugee side. Broad Spectrum, formerly Transfield, is the company running Australia's detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island. It has been under siege from a hostile takeover bid from Spanish company Ferrovial. With the announced closure of the Manus Island camp and the consequent financial impacts, Broad Spectrum had no choice but to accept the Ferroval bid. Now Ferroval has announced that it does not want to run the the centres. I quote from The Financial Review story:
....providing services at regional processing centres was not a "core part of the acquisition rationale and valuation and it is not a strategic activity in Ferrovial's portfolio".

"Ferrovial's view is that this will not form part of its services offering in the future," the paragraph concluded.
Ferroval through Broad Spectrum is legally obliged to continue operating the Nauru centre (and Manus for that matter) until the end of the current contract, but it is clear that the Spanish company wants out. I'ts just another problem for the Government as key aspects of its border protection regime continue to unravel.

Changing directions, Sandra McPhee's report into proposed changes in the Commonwealth Public Service has reportedly been enthusiastically welcomed by Minister Michaelia Cash. Ms Cash is not one of the more subtle ministers. I haven't read the report yet, and certainly there is nearly always room for improvement. However, the discussion around the report ignores a key aspect of the old, the concept of a career service.

There were two parts of that old concept. The first was the role of the public service in providing impartial advice beyond the immediately political. The second was the need to build a career service that reflected both acceptance of limitations if you were to become a public servant, and this does or should impose limitations, and the need to build a career structure that would give best advice and service delivery independent of changes in political masters. We seem to have lost sight of

I know that the world changes, but I would be more comfortable with those changes is I though that we had a system of public administration that actually delivered better results as a consequence of the changes, I just don't see it.


Sue said...

I have to walk out of the room if Ms Cash is on TV. You have put it very diplomatically indeed. In my opinion, Ms Cash has read The Penguin Book of Snap Judgements. I know. The book doesn't exist, but it should ...

Jim Belshaw said...

The problem with that book, Sue, is it's rate of expansion! Interesting that you have something of the same reaction as I too Ms Cash. She really does rub me up the wrong way.

2 tanners said...

Sad, really, that expertise is valued everywhere but in the public service.

Speaking of books that should exist, a rather longer tome is "Advice Unasked". Many good lessons contained therein.

Jim Belshaw said...

Is it still in print, 2t?

2 tanners said...

No, but some excerpts are remaindered on a site called "Personal Reflections". A web search should find it.

Jim Belshaw said...

Laughed. I will have a look!