It is possible to create a better world through good public policy, according to former Victorian Premier (2007-2010), Treasurer (2000-2007) and member of Bob Hawke’s Federal government (1983-1990), John Brumby.
In an address to the Institute of Public Administration, Australia (Victoria) tonight, John Brumby shares some of the lessons he learned in 25 years serving the state.
He reflects that getting elected with a mandate is the easy part because the policies have been out in the public domain and have been stress tested – but the harder part is how you respond to changing circumstances that affect you like the global financial crisis, federal funding cuts, bushfires and drought, terrorism etc.
Mr Brumby says that when responding to changing circumstances, government will be looking for ideas of how we get through and what we can do as a state. As well as the public debate about solutions, Mr Brumby says that “The role of the public service is really crucial – not a monopoly on advice but a crucial part of the advice… Most people in government are looking for the practical solutions to the problems they see around them and evidence-based policy well-presented is always a good way to get change.”
Mr Brumby believes that politicians and the public service share the same goal: to make the world a better place through good public policy.
To the IPAA gathering, he explains that leadership in the public sector means positioning ourselves to take advantage of opportunities emerging from a changing world.
He cites his book The Long Haul which he says distils a number of lessons from his experience in public life.
“My book is called The Long Haul because most of the things really worth doing in public life and government take a long time. The challenges of a world in transition are no different. The public sector is especially important in this regard as it is (ideally) able to transcend electoral cycles and take the long view,” Mr Brumby says.
In The Long Haul he writes: “In an ideal world, the public service transcends politics and adopts the good of the country as its sole concern. It is not beholden to electoral cycles; it takes a long-term view. It holds the corporate memory of a nation or state, and is a repository of the accumulated wisdom of many decades of policy success and failure. But in fact, none of this helps much unless the public service is allowed to be what it was intended to be: frank and fearless in its advice, and unbiased and impartial in its actions.”