Cheryl McGregor | Paying our respects to the bureaucrats

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Cheryl McGregor at The Newcastle Herald, has mined the sneak preview of our upcoming paper, The State of the Australian Public Service: An Alternative Report to find that as citizens we are discerning enough to distinguish our feelings for the government of the day from what we think of our public service and the people who work in it.

Contrary to depictions in the media and what our pollies might have to say, we actually respect those of our fellow citizens who spend their working lives on the national payroll. So new research as part of our Public Service program reveals the rhetoric does not match up to public opinion.
Cheryl McGregor writes:

New research shows that ordinary Australians prefer to have the public sector provide essential community services, and are even willing to pay higher taxes rather than have them privatised or outsourced.

Yet politicians in successive state and federal governments have deliberately moved away from regulating markets for social outcomes. Instead they’ve concentrated on job cuts, freezes and “removing deadwood” in the public service, while insisting that handing services over to commercial providers results in greater efficiency. Centre for Policy Development researcher James Whelan uncovered the deep divide between the public and the pollies by looking in detail at 10 major polls, some taken at regular intervals over 20years; studying 500 newspaper articles from 2010-2011; and searching parliamentary reports from 2007 on.

But the surveys consistently showed voters on both left and right rejecting even the current Holy Grail of both major parties – a budget surplus – in favour of maintaining public services.

The difficulty, however, is to convince the politicians of this as a basis for long-term policies.

It’s a matter of concern, he argues, because important policy decisions are made on the basis of public service advice. If the politicians actively dislike the public service, their decisions will not be in line with community wishes.

Read Cheryl McGregor’s evaluation of our current excerpt from our upcoming paper, The State of the Australian Public Service: An Alternative Report here.

And find our chapter, Attitudes Toward the Public Service here. The full report, The State of the Australian Public Service: An Alternative Report, is due for release in mid-August. Be sure you are signed up to hear about it and read it when it comes out.

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