- 28 August 2022
In our situation we have only had to deal with the PS, Centrelink, twice in recent times.My knowledge of the PS is state based not federal but I'm told it's much the same for both.
Key issue in the PS isn't lack of people per se but rather it's lack of the right people.
Go back a long way and the PS used to be filled with doers. Perhaps not always the most productive doers but doers nonetheless. People who did things directly and who knew their stuff. If you looked at the PS in total then the majority of its workforce were professionals, trades and other doers of some sort.
Today if you look at the PS it's very different. Pretty much the entire technical workforce is gone completely and apart from emergency services, teaching and hospitals so are most of the other frontline doers. If you can still find anyone with technical expertise, almost certainly they're doing zero work applying that expertise directly and are simply administering the contract for someone who does. They're in that job only because they were already there and it saved government paying a redundancy. Once they retire, their replacement will be someone with no technical knowledge at all such that ultimately expertise is being removed from the PS. Meanwhile the administrative workforce has massively increased, to the point of being overwhelmingly dominant in some departments.
Related to this shift is that managers are now far more easily able to "capture" an issue than was the case previously. Going back, various professions and trades would've raised all hell if someone representing them hadn't been given input. That doesn't happen when you don't have those professions and trades employed in the first place, and enables the whole thing to be controlled by one person. That leaves the door wide open to all manner of bad things happening - it's a lot easier to corrupt one individual, especially a ladder climber who's inclined to say "yes minister", than to corrupt an entire department.
Two issues with this.
First is the efficiency one. As you point out, the PS is employing a huge number of people but what's missing from those figures is that, unlike the past, today there's also an army of contractors doing the work. Your taxes are of course ultimately paying those contractors as well as the PS workers.
Second and of relevance to this subject is the loss of expertise. That leads to all sorts of silly things being done and mistakes being made that need not happen.
So my point about the PS being hollowed out isn't about numbers. It's about it having lost knowledge in a wide range of areas and replaced that with top heavy administration.
In regard to the Voice that's a bit indirect but it's of relevance to the underlying themes.
Both times very pleasantly surprised by the foresight and understanding and very quick decision making.
Perhaps we struck two blokes who were not having a bad day or as i would like to think that they were doers and doing what they were good at.
We did thank them at the time ans said how happy we were at being in and out in a very short space of time.
An elephant stamp for each of them.