James Whelan | Meet our new Public Service Research Director

Three decades of ‘reform’ in public sectors around the world have seen significant changes in the way public services are delivered. We need a 21st century re-think!

And so we’ve launched our Public Service Research Program. The program aims to:

  • define a vision for the role of government in Australia
  • articulate values, principles and a policy framework for the future of the public service
  • ensure that governments recognise the importance of publicly provided services and that those services are properly funded over the long term
James Whelan

To lead the program, we welcome James Whelan to the CPD team. You can contact James’ at james.whelan@cpd.org.au

Here’s what James shared about his hopes for the program when we sat down to chat with him:

CPD: What do you hope to achieve as Director of the Public Service Program?

James: I’ve joined a team at the CPD to raise the profile of the Australian Public Service in the minds of both citizens and the Australian Government, to get us thinking about the kind of government we believe in and the relationship we’d like to have with that government. I’m looking forward to participating in some lively conversations about the Australian Public Service – through gatherings, online dialogue and a series of CPD papers.

CPD: When I say government, what do you think?

James: Government is our society’s chosen arrangement to meet needs that can’t be provided by the private or community sectors alone. Many services are most effectively and efficiently provided by government, either alone or in partnership with industry and community. In Australia, state and federal governments assure citizens access to essential services such as health and housing, education, transport and security, regardless of their circumstances. We invest heavily in these services: committing almost one-third of our gross domestic product and creating a workforce of more than 160,000 Australians. But I think we need to ask whether we’re getting the best return on this investment. Are we investing adequately? How can we ensure the Australian Public Service delivers services effectively and efficiently?

CPD: Some would argue that we are poorly served by government. Senator Cory Bernardi, for instance, argues that governments fail to consider the consequences of their policy decisions, impose taxes arbitrarily and have plunged us into debt. Do you think Australians hate government?

James: We don’t hate government, but we do have a shaky relationship. The public service, after all, exists to serve us. Yet too few Australians feel unconditionally positive about paying taxes or about some forms of government intervention. Like a couple in a stale long-term relationship, we have come to take each other for granted and to find fault more often than appreciating the other. This program will explore what it would take to refresh the relationship between citizens and our national public service, to bring back the spark and romance.

CPD: What’s one example where government has made our lives better?

James: Without being religious about it (though I am a firm believer in public services), my life is better each day because of government… and government public services. I travel by bus, enjoy public media, draw on my publicly-funded education and rely on one of the world’s best public health systems. And on the weekend, I’m planning to enjoy an amazing natural place that was conserved through regulation and is well managed by public servants. Government – what’s not to love?!