Public Service Independence

An apolitical, professional public service that provides ‘frank and fearless’ advice to ministers is a core component of Westminster democracy. Yet, a number of recent events and reports have raised concerns that public service independence is being eroded in Australia.

The Victorian Ombudsman recently reported on a range of ways in which ‘creeping politicisation’ is occurring in the Victorian public sector, including via non-merit-based appointments, the use of consultants, secrecy and a lack of rigorous scrutiny of projects. The Robodebt Royal Commission revealed a culture in which some public servants were not providing ‘frank and fearless’ advice and made several recommendations to improve the knowledge and accountability of the Commonwealth public service.

This online seminar (hosted via Zoom) will explore the importance of, and modern challenges for, an independent public service. Hosted by the UNSW Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and the Australian Institute of Administrative Law (NSW), it features Emeritus Professor John McMillan (former Commonwealth Ombudsman), Professor Janet McLean (University of Auckland) and Professor Vicki Jackson (Harvard).