A History of Fearless Service - Public Service Association

A History of Fearless Service

The first edition of what has become Red Tape was called the Public Service Journal. It was published on 4 January 1900 and carried the story of public servants meeting to consider the PSA’s draft constitution.

That meeting was chaired by Mr Beaver, Clerk of the Peace, who, in addressing the gathering is quoted as saying:

Though we have a loyal and faithful service, we must have a fearless service. I mean a service which will not be spineless, or a cringing, craving service, which is always indicative of that which is wrong. Because ultimately they would find that a service which dare not express its views in a reasonable and proper manner and dare not ask for what was legitimately its rights, was bound, more or less to be a menace to the State”.

The views expressed by Mr Beaver recognise the critical role public sector workers play in advising the government of the day in the best interests of the people.

It also highlights the need for independence of the public servants who provide the advice.

The security of tenure currently enjoyed by most public servants creates an environment which supports an independent and “fearless service”.

Unfortunately, under the O’Farrell Government this independence is threatened.

Approximately 2000 workers covered by awards who occupy Senior Officer or Senior Officer equivalent positions are to be transferred to contract.

These officers include senior professional staff working in occupations ranging from Research Scientists in different departments to Senior Accountants in Treasury.

They are the people who develop policy, administer legislation and advise on government direction.

Robbing large numbers of public sector workers of this employment security further erodes the separation of powers which is the cornerstone of the Westminster system.

Whilst many people today work on contract, most understand the importance of having public servants who operate in an environment which is secure and fosters the provision of independent advice.

The importance of maintaining the separation of powers is being played out at the moment in the ICAC in reference to the Doyles Creek coalmine exploration license granted by former NSW Mining Minister, Ian Macdonald to his political associate John Maitland.

During the hearing, the ICAC was told that Mr Maitland had requested a meeting with only Mr Macdonald present as the senior members of the mining department objected to the project.

Counsel assisting Mr Braham SC said “You didn’t want the watchful eyes of the department over your pitch to the Minister about the exploration license.”

The “watchful eyes of the department “are becoming ever more important with the changes we are currently experiencing in the NSW public sector.

There is a clear agenda from the O’ Farrell Government to transfer state assets and services to the private and non-government sector.

Whilst this may produce short term economic benefits, in the main, it has long term negative consequences.

The people of NSW are relying on the continued professional and impartial advice being provided by you, our members, to guide the decision-making of government.

Keep up the good work.

Inside the PSA

It is nearly six months since I became PSA General Secretary. As part of my election campaign I undertook that the remuneration of paid elected officials would be declared and then reviewed in relation to equivalent work done by public sector workers.

In the last edition of Red Tape, the salaries of the three paid elected officials including the General Secretary were declared.

In order to move to the evaluation phase of these positions, the following PSA rule 53(a) had to be formally rescinded. This has now been done and ratified by the Industrial Registrar.

Rule 53 (a) of the PSA rules formerly read:

The minimum salary, emoluments and conditions and benefits of employment of the General Secretary and Assistant General Secretaries as determined at the time nominations are called for shall not be reduced during the term of office of a person elected in the following elections, except as may be necessitated by a nexus specified in the determination.

As this review process has taken longer than anticipated, I have decided to reduce the salary of the General Secretary by 20% from 30 June.

If, as I suspect, the evaluation of the General Secretary’s salary determines the position to be worth more than this reduced amount when compared to equivalent work done by a public servant, I intend to continue to be paid 20% less.

Anne Gardiner

General Secretary

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