Saturday, June 26, 2010

New State arguments 11 - the importance of a dedicated public service

One of my former public service colleagues died recently, something that I recorded in Death of John Martin. It got me thinking on the importance of a dedicated New England public service.

I have spent a bit over two decades as a public servant, more time working with public servants in other capacities. I actually have a very high opinion of public servants.

One of the problems that we have at present lies in the fact that there are no public servants working for New England, no one to provide the focus and type of support that might help drive New England forward.

This is not a criticism of NSW public servants presently working within New England. The reality is that they can do very little and for two reasons.

The first is that New England does not exist. Public servants must work within existing structures, including the varying regional structures imposed by agencies. In general, those structures do not reflect the broader New England. They are far narrower. No one looks at the broader entity.

The second is that those in regional offices have limited power. Not only do they have to work within NSW state wide policies and parameters, but their policy depth is limited. Their real input into policy making is therefore limited.

Imagine what it would be like to say to the head, for example, of the new New England tourism agency, we want a New England tourism plan. Your performance will be measured by the increase in the dollar value of spend by those visiting New England. No need to worry about Sydney, just get the job done.

Or the head of the new New England Department of State Development. We want New England's inland population doubled over the next ten years. How might we do this? Will it have adverse effects on other parts of New England? How do we manage this?

I could give many more examples. My point is that none of these things will happen under present structures. The people aren't there, nor is the power, nor even the data.


Mark said...

The public service has obvious flow on effects as well. Local influence on public policy and spending on infastructure etc, encourages private confidence and investment. Population is also attracted. Local people looking after local interests.

The reason why Western Sydney continues to grow at the existing state's expense. This is so obvious with a lop-sided ratio of NSW legislature.

Good write up Jim.

Greg said...

Great post Jim. I think that this is one of the most powerful arguments that we have.

NSW treasury will naturally be focused primarily on Sydney issues - that is where most public servants are located and where 2/3 of the state population resides. The same probably applies to any other aspect of government that you can think of.

To have a New England public service dedicated to and working specifically for New England and it's particular and unique issues would be a powerful driver for New England development.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Mark. It would indeed, Greg. Actually, I should write more on this to show how things actually work. It's all about institutional structures.