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The Forum > Article Comments > Public sector malaise > Comments

Public sector malaise : Comments

By Gary Brown, published 18/10/2005

Gary Brown argues a growing malaise is undermining confidence in Australia's public administration.

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I understand from your background, Gary, why you might continue to focus on problems with federal governance. But quite frankly, all this focus on Rao et al pales in significance to a far greater ethical malaise at State level.

One or two suicides in Defence or at the hands of Immigration etc are nothing compared to the character and scale of entirely preventable deaths in the State health system, especially in Queensland. But even this is only a small portion of the culpability of malgovernance. And foremost amongst the other killers are the respective State EPA's and Natural Resources Departments.

And while these deaths are dispersed, isolated and largely misreported, they still fall well within the "remoteness of damage" standards that have been applied by the courts.

For example, a farmer lies wide awake at 3.00 am worried sick about how his farm will remain viable in the face of so-called environmental protection measures. He has clearing controls that prevent him clearing regrowth that has been wrongly mapped as Remnant, he has development restrictions that prevent him from subdividing a single house block from the main property to enable his daughter to share in his estate, his water rights are up for renegotiation because the uncontrolled regrowth in the upper catchment national park has seriously degraded the catchment water yield.

Most public servants under this type of stress will get stress leave, but only after they called in sick to recover from the previous night of sleep deprivation. Not so, the farmer. He gets no sickies and stress leave would only make his problems worse. So hops on the tractor and struggles through another days work. That is, until about an hour after lunch when the sun, and drowsyness catches up on him. A moments lapse in concentration and another horrendous farm accident statistic is notched up.

And we all know how the courts would allocate blame if the same happened to a public sector employee, dont we?
Posted by Perseus, Tuesday, 18 October 2005 10:27:24 AM
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Public Administration and Governance in Australia is at a turning point. Either it addresses itself, the misconduct and "silo issues" within itself or we as the Australian public will continue to slide into the well of bystander apathy, both inside and outside of the system, we call government.

I am one of the many in Australia who "when attempting to make a complaint" against police, was "falsely arrested" and abused by police in Queensland, six years ago, on a minor charge. This event, as the drama unfolded, has comletely changed my life.

This was a "stuctural violence" by police on a civilan, and by those who refused to do anything, to investigate the situation from inside the police, legal and court system.

I, as naive as I am, had to self-represent in court (which was a complete and utter sham). I had to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for my own transcripts, because I did not have legal representation or any form of aid.

Today, I would not understand anything as serious as this, about why so many people feel betrayed, or what happens when they try to complain, if this had not happened to me.

Everyone advised me to just "let-it-go".

However, with "under-reporting" at an all time low, I wanted to see the evidence made available, as a value for on-going case study research. I wanted to be responsible as a citizen, about my role in this situation, to make a difference, and to enhance good reason, for the need for change.

I know the plight of the farmer, and I agree with the burden. Life Quality indices are disintegrated in many basic areas, where there is a lack of consultation, communication, and appropriate response, from government politicians and staff.

The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community, requires government to address the reality of what is happening to our confidence in advocating that we as a nation, do have a platform, for democracy.
Posted by miacat, Tuesday, 18 October 2005 4:04:59 PM
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The public service is long overdue for some private enterprise style rationalisation.Along came the GST and the state Govts went into overdrive on waste and spending.NSW $720 million last yr wasted on workers comp claims.Three times the rate of private enterprise.Most were out on stress leave.How can you be stressed when you can't be sacked?Employs 20,000 too many bureaucrats and now cannot sack them.Admitted to having 300 employees doing absolutely nothing.Health,too many in administration and not enough active health workers.Reduced the police force to a whimpering simpering police service.No money for infrastructure or public schools.Public transport a mess,no secure water supply.The list goes on.Of the $40 billion collected NSW spends over half on wages.

More tax,more incompetence,more waste and no accountability.
Posted by Arjay, Tuesday, 18 October 2005 11:10:45 PM
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This was an interesting little article. The comments re the Qld Health Inquiry revelations are pertinent. So to the brief summation of the infrastructure shortcomings, especially water. Another issue is the toll roads/bridges debacles across the country. It seems that Govt. at all levels is disconnecting itself from the welfare of the mass of ordinary people over which it strides, like a massive authoritarian dictator. But it appears that it rules in the direct interests of powerful corporations and the technocratic and wealthy elites. Come to think of it, when one sees Govt. as an instrument of the corporate and bureaucratic elite's interests then the actions of Govt. make sense. Australia has actually become a neo-Fascist society. Howard and the "Liberals" will finally transform this nation into a wholly Fascist state with the passage of the WorkChoices and Terrorist Bills. Bye Oz.
Posted by artsgrad, Sunday, 23 October 2005 7:18:01 PM
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No dogs or Australian's?

It is not widely known but all this distancing of government from it's obligations with privatised roads etc has both a name and a very well documented record of failure. It is called "tax farming". It was given absolutely free reign as the way of the future by, wait for it, the assortment of warlords and thugs that controlled China from the mid 1800's to 1949. It was an absolute disaster.

Tolls were everywhere, they were not removed once a new road was paid for but, rather, they were extended to apply on roads that had already been built at public expense. These taxes then became a major impediment to trade and a serious brake on economic development.

Entire sectors of the public revenue base were sold off. This was to such an extent that the central government had lost the capacity to respond to major emergencies. More importantly, they also lost the capacity to adjust fiscal policy settings to either reign in inflation or stimulate the economy in recession.

Eventually, whole pieces of the nation itself were surrendered to creditors, foreign ones, who ran their own show. Substance abuse was a core element of a contracting economy. It culminated in the notorious sign in a Shanghai park that said, "No Dogs or Chinese Allowed".

And only ended when Mao lined the perpetrators up aginst a wall and shot them. And it took another half century to recover from his excesses in the other direction.
Posted by Perseus, Tuesday, 25 October 2005 10:47:10 AM
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