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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

ministerial responsibility? « Previous | |Next »
February 16, 2006

I couldn't let this slip, as it is an accurate representation of the modern political culture in liberal democracy.

The theory is that Ministers set the policy direction and the departmental secretaries manage the administration of policy. If things get out of hand within a dysfunctional department, then that is the responsibility of the departmental secretary, as these are failures of public administration. That's what I heard Peter Shergold, Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, say at the National Press Club yesterday. He justified this by appealing to the Public Service Act.

Where then is the Ministerial responsibility? What are they responsible for? Where then is their accountibility to Parliament and to Australian citizens? What are they accountible for?


Don't Ministers manage the politics of an issue with the help of their departments?Are not the senior bureaucrats political appointees, selected because they are sympathetic to the government's understanding of politics and democracy as well as its policies?

The line between department and minister is not as wide or clear cut as Shergold makes out.

Departments--such as Health and Treasury--- have their own politics do they not? Do they not seek to persuade the Minister to adopt and push these policies? Treasury certainly does. What about all the lines between the Department and the Ministerial staff? Is the Minister responsible for his staff?

Shergold says that if a government minister was aware of the AWB kickbacks and failed to stop them he should resign. Does that mean the Department acts to ensure that the Department is not aware in terms of leaving no paper trails?

More over at John Quiggin.

What is not addressed by Shergold is the emergence of

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:07 AM | | Comments (0)