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Byron Shire
April 18, 2021

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Fast Buck$, Coorabell

Recently a senior bureaucrat from Home Affairs contacted a senator to harass him over his views on the police media raids. Peter Dutton subsequently had to admit that the contact was ‘inappropriate’.

At stake here was the principle of ‘separation of powers’ ie the rule that bureaucrats, politicians, and judges are independent and should not interfere in each other’s activities. In other words the bureaucrat should not have leaned on the elected politician, or even expressed an opinion to him.

This conflict is regularly observed at Council, when bureaucratic staff shape the views and thoughts of elected councillors by withholding and twisting information and by failing to answer legitimate questions. Your elected councillors reinforce this by refusing to accept criticism of the staff.

Recently I pointed out that once a month staff and councillors engage in a strategic planning workshop which in reality covers all manner of non-planning matters. It turns out that this informal and all-but-secret session is mandated by the state government, which never gives up tweaking the system to favour right-wing objectives.

Closer personal relationships between staff and counsellors of course offer greater opportunity for manipulation; indeed I regard these so-called ‘workshops’ as little more than strategic smiling sessions.

This smile-a-thon began when Jan Barham the cranky moved on, as though it was Jan’s crankiness that had caused all the problems and now everything is going to be hunky-dory.

Don’t get me wrong; there are genuine smiles and real people near the top, but to become a director you have to sell your soul to the devil. Current dear Mark Arnold is real but I can’t see that he has changed anything for the $4,000 per week we pay him. I think you might have tried but got stomped on by the real deciders.

Last week I tried to sit in on the planning review committee. In my day all committees were open to the public, but apparently the state government has now ruled any committee that has a staff member on it can keep the public out.

As I see it, any committee that has a staff member on it participating in debate is precisely the committee that needs public scrutiny.

This particular committee decides which development applications go to the elected council and which of them are determined by staff alone, so its members (whoever they are) could and should vote to allow the watchdog in the room.


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1 COMMENT

  1. Australian Public Servants are required under the APS Code of Conduct to treat the public -including any Senator – with respect. Harassment is a serious form of disrespectful behaviour. If the matter was serious the Senator could have complained to the Public Service Commissioner and the matter would have been investigated at arms length from government. Public Servants should not give their own opinion on nay matter, but form time to time are properly required ot express the view of the governemnt, and in the case of senior officials to explain it. It appears the Senator has not complained so we should assume no harassment occurred and not refer to whatever occurred as harassment.

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