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    THE DEMOCRATIC ASSEMBLY -- LEVELLING THE DISCUSSION FIELD (3) -- THE PUBLIC SERVICE

    aps logoThe Australian Public Service  (The A.P.S.) is the federal organisation of the Commonwealth of Australia which is responsible for the public administration, public policy, and public services of the government departments, executive and statutory agencies of the Government of Australia. 
     
    The A.P.S. is constituted under the Public Service Act 1999, whilst being founded on the 1st of January 1901
     
    The  Headquarters of the A.P.S. is  in Canberra
    At June 2015, the A.P.S. employed over 150,000 employees.
     
    The Current Public Service Commissioner is  Mr Peter Woolcott A.O.  (Deputy Commissioner :Ms Mary Wiley-Smith)
     
    The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) is a central agency within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio.
     
    The Commission supports two statutory office holders: the Australian Public Service Commissioner - who is also agency head - and the Merit Protection Commissioner. Their functions are set out in sections 41(1) and 50(1), respectively, of the Public Service Act 1999.
     

    We think that an old story is worthwhile re-telling here, to set the scene for an emerging situation, (to be discussed in due course), but which may assist those people joining this discussion who have not previously looked at or thought about, the  Australian Public Service, this aspect of the government of Australia.  
     
    HAY PO
     
     The elders of a village appointed a postal officer to handle the incoming and outgoing mail from the village.
     
    The pay wasn't terrific but adequate for the job, and the job held great prestige in the village; nice uniform, house and everything. People looked up to the mail officer with great respect. 
     
     POSTMAN
    The person worked for many years and was recognised as an asset to the village, but gradually as age crept up, the work became more tiresome.
     
    During a hard winter, a young enterprising person said to the mail Officer:
    "If you like, in return for a small part of your wages,  I will take the mail around and deliver it for you, after you have sorted it, so that you can stay in the warm".
    The mail officer accepted this offer with thanks, and things went on well.
     
    Soon the mail sorting became tiresome, and the young person said: "I could do the collecting and sorting for you, as well as delivering the mail, but you will still be the postal officer and have the glory!"
    So, in exchange for most of the wages of the job, the official mail officer sat back and the young person did all the work which was fine and worked well and efficiently. 
     
    Soon the mail officer retired, and the village elders advertised and obtained a new Mail officer.
    The young person offered the same services as before to the new officer, (who happened to know nothing about mail delivery), and the offer was accepted because it was a lot easier and more efficient, and meant that  the prestige and benefits of the post could be accepted, without the work.. And this situation went on and on and on...
     
    Thus was created the public service. assisting government affairs.(originally called the civil service) and employees were called "public servants". 
    The famous quote by  Charles de Gaulle, President of France applies:

    "Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians".


     

    In times past, when monarchs ruled absolutely and, in some cases "By Divine Right", and held court, then civil servants were part of the king’s household. They were literally the King or Queen's personal servants,  writing documents, providing advice, learning and knowledge to assist in lawmaking and ruling the Nation generally. These servants were to be found in courts in many parts of the world of China, Persia (Iran), and other ancient empires and kingdoms.
     
    As times went on, the powers of monarchs and princes declined and in some countries, the monarchs were deposed and disposed of.
     
    Politicians appointed public servants to assist and advise, and these selections were a matter of personal choice by ministers and heads of departments. However, the experience of a public servant would have been valuable to a new politician, just like the post officer in the little story above.
     
    The influence which senior civil servants may wield over policy and the need for them to work in close harmony with ministers, induce all governments to insist on complete freedom of choice in appointments, even when, as in Great Britain, the freedom is rarely invoked. For incoming politicians to change the senior parts of a  well-ordered public service, is politicisation. 
     
    In some countries, notably the United States, senior advisers -  (Public Servants)  - usually are replaced whenever a new administration takes office.
     
     
     
    The issue of the potential politicisation of the Australian Public Service (APS) has received considerable attention in the last two years. (2019)
    In part, this has been a reaction to the immediate replacement of six department secretaries after the change of government in 1996.
     
    Proposed changes to the Public Service Act also raised questions about possible threats to the continuing viability of a professionally neutral public service.
    It must be asked, what are the inefficiencies of the loss of valuable experience within the service, and to what extent is the APS moving from a professional Westminster model towards a politicised one as found in the United States and some continental European democracies?
     
    One thing seems certain. In whatever direction the future of Australian Government goes, the constitution and work of the Australian Public Service will be vital to the success of the future security and comfort of the Australian People.
     
    In any recommenation for change, these questions need to be addressed.
    The A.P.S. has very clear rules and ethical controls over the manner in which it works. These can viewed at : THIS WEBSITE

     
    Further reading: https://www.britannica.com/topic/civil-service
     
     
    THE DEMOCRATIC ASSEMBLY -- PROPOSITION AND INVIT...
    THE DEMOCRATIC ASSEMBLY -- LEVELLING THE DISCUSS...
     

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