Woman at desk looking confused

Is the Australian Public Service suffering from undue diligence and scientific rigor mortis? Some articles and speeches this month explain the need to move the APS from bureaucratic rigmarole to scientific rigor. One of the most blistering and persuasive articles of the year comes in a 14.12.2016 article in The Mandarin, Evidence-based policy: missing in action? by Karen Chester, Productivity Commission deputy chair. (The article is an edited version of her speech to the 2016 CSIRO-Monash Superannuation Conference on December 6.) In her speech, Karen shares two streams of recent endeavors of the Commission to explain why an evidence-based approach is essential to good public policy. One of these streams is directly linked to the work of the cluster (ageing and retirement incomes) and one indirectly linked to the cluster (overcoming Indigenous disadvantage.)

Karen’s comments include:

Three simple but essential prerequisites to good public policy are sorely missing in action”

“This means, at least in aggregate, that Australians have become no better or smarter in producing what we produce for over a decade.”

“To put it bluntly, the overwhelming absence of meaningful evaluation of Indigenous policies and programs beggars belief “

Apart from the lessons in evidence-based policy, Karen shares some personal experiences of bad public policy which make for highly recommended holiday reading.


And for further candid opinion on the APS digital transformation we need look no further than

departing Chief Digital Officer Paul Shetler, who gave some frank views in 03.12.2016 article in The Mandarin, Paul Shetler: my 16 months of digital transformation in Australia.  Paul notes that “The blockers to positive transformation are structural, cultural and skills-based. During the last 16 months at DTO and now at the brand-new DTA, we’ve also seen just how painful it can be for government to get on with delivering good digital services.” He gives insights and examples of those blockers  and points out that “Over the last 40 years, as we’ve outsourced technology, there’s been a progressive deskilling of the public service. The reliance on consultants is remarkable and the amount spent on them is eye watering.” On the up side, Paul says “One thing that’s been very clear from the last 16 months has been how dedicated Australian public servants are in serving the public.” Congratulating his team, Paul concludes “I encourage you to continue to do just one thing — put users first, always.”

Paul followed up on his article with a 07.12.2016 podcast in The Mandarin, see  Podcast with Paul Shetler: a digital architecture for government by Tom Burton.

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