Introducing The Select Committee – The Mandarin Brains Trust


Seeking the wise counsel of others is the mark of a great leader. Weighing up various views before making decisions can only be a positive thing. And in times such as those we are living in right now, experience and sound judgement are – and should be – highly valued resources.

Welcome to The Select Committee – The Mandarin Brains Trust.

The Mandarin has asked nine highly skilled high achievers to form a panel we are calling The Select Committee. These people are huge contributors to society, being involved in public policy at the highest levels. Some of them are familiar faces, others less so. All of them command the respect of their peers and the respect of we here at The Mandarin.

From time to time, we will ask members of The Select Committee to provide comment and insight into important issues. Insight to share with our readers.

Usually, we might only seek the comment of three or four at a time – depending on the issue. This first time, however, we are introducing them all with their thoughts on this question:

 As the workplace begins a transition towards business as usual, what should public sector leaders ensure is done differently into the future?

 Here are their thoughts on this topic and brief biographies of each member of The Select Committee.

Lucy Turnbull AO

Lucy Turnbull AO is an urbanist, businesswoman and philanthropist with a longstanding interest in cities, and technological and social innovation.

From 2015-20 she was the inaugural Chief Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission, tasked by the NSW state government to assist in delivering strong and effective strategic planning for the whole of metropolitan Sydney. The GSC’s Plan ‘A Metropolis of Three Cities – rebalancing the Metropolis’ reimagines Sydney’s spatial, social and economic structure for the next 40 years.

Lucy was the first female Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney from 2003-4 and in 2011 she became an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the community, local government and business. She has served as a board member of multiple not-for-profit cultural and not-for-profit institutions.

In 2012 Lucy was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Business by the University of NSW, and in 2016 was appointed Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Built Environment, University of NSW. In 2017 she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Western Sydney University which she received for her substantial and sustained service and contribution to the University and the Greater Western Sydney region.

She and her husband Malcolm Turnbull have over many decades been involved in supporting many medical, research, social and cultural institutions. She is a trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW.

Lucy Turnbull

“The COVID crisis and response tells us that coordination and collaboration across governments and within governments are critical. And when it happens, the results are resoundingly positive. 

 “Coordination, trust and collaboration will be equally essential in recovery phase and  longer term, in addressing other urgent issues —  which include climate change, gender equity and access to jobs and good education. 

 “There seem to be more ‘wicked problems’ than ever before and now is the time to tackle them.  

 “One particular issue to address is female workforce participation. To date, women have been more heavily impacted than men by rising unemployment and underemployment. The recovery period needs a strong gender lens and focus. 

 “The other issue to address is that where infrastructure investment decisions are made by governments local, state and federal, there needs to be a wider assessment of the social, health, economic and environmental benefits of the Investment options being considered. 

 “For example, access to open space and local ‘walkability’ and ‘cyclability’ was so valuable during the pandemic. It always has been and should be: we just noticed it more. Future transport investment needs to focus on these qualities, as well as other transport services — including roads. That way we will have healthier, better connected and more vibrant local communities – even when the bars cafes and restaurants are closed.” Lucy Turnbull AO


Geoff Gallop AC

Geoffrey Gallop AC was the 27th Premier of Western Australia (2001-2006), he is the former chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, and is currently Professor and Director of the Graduate School of Government at the University of Sydney, a role he has held since 2006.

From 2007 to 2009, Geoff was a community member of the NSW Health Department’s great Metropolitan Clinical Task force. From 2007 to 2011, he was Deputy Chair of the Council of Australian Government (COAG) Reform Council and in 2008 he was appointed to the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission which reported to the Commonwealth Government in June 2009.

Geoff Gallop

In 2010, he joined the Advisory Board of the Hawke Research Institute at the University of South Australia and from 2011 has been the chair of the New Democracy Foundation’s Research Committee. In 2011 he was appointed by Australia’s Foreign Minister to chair the Australia Awards Board, and in the same year was appointed a member of the Commonwealth’s International Education Advisory Council.

In 2008, Geoff was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia.

“We’re just coming out of an extended period when public servants have been without question the key advisers, the public sector key agents and the general public key supports for governments faced with emergencies.

“How different it’s been to see public rather than private interests hold sway.

“Governments have still to make judgment calls, that’s unavoidable, but with more integrity and evidence – and genuine public support – than’s so often been the case.

“The challenges ahead – productivity, employment, climate, and not forgetting the virus itself – are such that we’ll need to continue with this renewed support for the public sector and public engagement.” – Geoff Gallop AC


Terry Moran AC

Terry Moran AC was, as Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australia’s most senior public servant, from 2008 to 2011.  His current roles include: Chancellor, Federation University; Chair, Centre for Policy Development; Vice President, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research; Director Menzies Foundation; Ambassador, Teach for Australia.

He spent his early career as a public servant in the Australian (Commonwealth) and Victorian Public Services. Terry’s first position as a public sector CEO was as Chief Executive of the Office of the State Training Board in Victoria from late 1987 until May 1993.  In May 1993 he was appointed as the first Chief Executive Officer of the Australian National Training Authority in Brisbane.  In August 1998 he became Queensland’s Director-General of Education.

Terry was appointed Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet for the State of Victoria in July 2000 and held this position until his appointment as Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in early 2008.

On 12 June 2006, Terry was named an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for “service to public sector leadership in key policy areas and program implementation, including technical and further education at state and national levels”. On 26 January 2012, the Governor General named him as a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for “eminent service to the community through public sector leadership, as a significant contributor to policy development, program delivery and effective governance, and to the implementation of contemporary government administration.” On 19 December 2017, Terry was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) at La Trobe University.

Terry Moran

“Australia will not return to what it was. We face big challenges such as a narrow economic base, climate change, movement in the pattern of global alliances, failing delivery of essential services outsourced to the private sector and a willingness by some to attack previously accepted nostrums defined by neo-liberalism.

 “The public sector can deal with these and other issues if it strives to adapt its organisational structures, acquires new capabilities and embraces a demographic profile which reflects the immense diversity of contemporary Australia in gender, ethnicity, educational background, location and class origins and so forth. 

 “The capabilities of the workforce should be broader and fit for the job to be done. Everything from management strategy to traditional administration; political systems and philosophies to sociology and anthropology; policy analysis to the analysis of community needs should be on the table. Technocratic retreat into economics as the prime reference point for policy analysis must be balanced by the broad insights from contemporary business management and social sciences generally. 

 “Only in this way can the public sector rebuild a broad skill base equipped to tackle a febrile world and a population desperate for leadership rather than economic dogma. As a priority, the many shameful failures in domestic program delivery, which compound the problems of inequality, must be rectified.

 “We know what needs to be done. The review I led, and David Thodey’s recent APS Review, came to similar conclusions. The trick now is to enable these big reforms to land and grow the capability of the public sector at the same time. We will need to be absolutely clear on the mission – whether on employment, essential services or climate – build the best team around that mission, and grow the capacity of the public sector in its pursuit.” Terry Moran AC


Helen Silver AO

Helen Silver AO is Allianz Australia’s Chief General Manager, Corporate Governance and Conduct.

Prior to joining Allianz Australia, Helen had spent more than 25 years in executive roles in the Victoria and Commonwealth public sectors, culminating in the position of Secretary of the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Helen also currently serves on a number of boards including the Victorian Arts Centre Trust, the Judicial Commission and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

In 2015, Helen was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to public administration, business and commerce and the Victorian community.

Helen Silver

“One of the key opportunities that is coming out of the COVID-19 experience is the recognition that it is possible to operate successfully with far greater flexibility in public and private sector working arrangements.

 “There is a significant desire by individuals to continue to work remotely. These work arrangements create benefits for a wide number of individuals particularly in managing their work/life balance, and as well would aid in attracting and retaining scarce highly skilled employees.

 “For public sector leaders it will be important to invest in leadership programs and technology to maximise engagement and productivity under these more diverse work arrangements.

 “On the public policy side, the immense amount of work that clearly has been invested in data and data analytics needs to be continued. This work offers the possibilities of greatly improving the targeting of programs and their efficacy.”Helen Silver AO


Richard Bolt PSM

Richard Bolt PSM is a Principal of the Nous Group of management consultants, and an Adjunct Professor of Energy Transformation at Swinburne University. He has degrees in electrical engineering and public policy and management.

Richard had a distinguished career in the Victorian Public Service, leading three departments over 12 years with responsibility for primary industries, education, and economic development and transport. He has numerous achievements across these portfolios but is best known for his record and expertise in energy, and decarbonisation is his principal (but not exclusive) professional priority.

Richard Bolt

Richard received a Public Service Medal in Australia’s 2018 national honours list. He has been a member of numerous national and State advisory committees to ministers, departments and agencies, and is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia, Engineers Australia and Monash University. He has four adult children, two dogs and (controversially among his family and friends) two AFL teams.

“We were forced into new work routines but are now reluctant to go back to old habits. A lasting legacy of lockdown should be a new synthesis of work and home, both to make life more manageable and lower our carbon footprint. It can’t be a carbon copy of what we’re now doing, so leadership and careful design will be essential.

 “We’ve seen how much can be achieved when public servants don’t sweat insignificant detail, politicians don’t fight by rote, evidence is taken seriously, and collegiate decision-making with room for difference is the norm. The same approach is needed to restart the economy, then green and equalise it over decades: act faster, focus on what’s significant, debate vigorously, collaborate by default, don’t revel in punishing failure.” Richard Bolt PSM


Nicholas Gruen

Nicholas Gruen is a prominent Australian economist and commentator on economic reform and innovation. He is the CEO of Lateral Economics and is the chair of the Open Knowledge Foundation (Australia). Nicholas has a PhD from the Australian National University and he is currently a Visiting Professor at Kings College London’s Policy Institute. He was formerly Chair of the Australian Centre for Social Innovation. In 2011 he was appointed to the board of Innovation Australia and was subsequently named as its chair.

Nicholas Gruen

Nicholas was a member of the Federal Government’s Review of the Australian Innovation System in 2008 and chaired the Government 2.0 Taskforce, which was widely praised internationally. The Australian Government subsequently accepted all the major recommendations of the Taskforce.

Nicholas worked as adviser to Federal Industry Minister John Button from the early 1980s and was regarded as the architect of the Button car plan, which freed up automotive trade, eliminated quotas, reduced tariffs and assisted exports during the transition. From 1990 to 1993 he was economic adviser to Treasurer John Dawkins and was appointed to the Productivity Commission. In late 1990s when he joined the Business Council of Australia, directing its New Directions project.

“The transition should mark our transition from top-down thinking to adaptive thinking. Even now we’re not improvising well – as shown by the remarkable absence of facemasks where they could be very useful (eg. on public transport and doctors’ surgeries). As we open schools and workplaces it would be easy to improvise routines to increase detection of illness as is being done elsewhere.

 “More generally, we could improve and sometimes save lives if the established rules of our experts and expert systems were presumptions open to challenge and thoughtful evidence based variation rather than unquestioned edicts.”Nicholas Gruen


Helen Sullivan

Professor Helen Sullivan is Director of the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy. She is a public policy researcher, teacher, advisor, and innovator with a commitment to bridging the gap between public policy research and practice.

Helen is widely published; the author of six books and numerous academic articles, book chapters, and policy reports. She appears regularly in print, mainstream and online media commenting on contemporary public policy issues.

In 2011 she co-designed the University of Birmingham’s Policy Commission Program and led the first Commission on Local Public Service Reform. Less than two years later, Helen founded the Melbourne School of Government (MSoG) at the University of Melbourne.

Helen Sullivan

Helen’s scholarship has been recognised by awards from the Public Management Research Association and the International Research Society for Public Management, her contribution to teaching is acknowledged by her fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (UK) and her contribution to practice by her fellowship of the Institute of Public Administration Australia.

 “A return to business as usual, even if it is possible, would be a missed opportunity for public sector leaders. The ‘what’s next?’ question is extremely challenging in our new environment, and how public sector leaders approach answering it will be as important as what the answers are.

“For leaders and deliverers of public services it is essential that the excellent collaborative working developed in the period of crisis becomes part of the mainstream rather than an add on. Forging a new path to improved outcomes with fewer resources requires collaboration across departments, organisations, and sectors, as well as with service users. 

“It may be counter-intuitive, but this is also the moment to slow down. Dealing with the ‘what’s next’ question requires deep and measured thinking, particularly when old remedies are unlikely to work. Build on the relationships between policy makers and academics to bring new evidence into discussions, and think beyond old paradigms.”Helen Sullivan


Ken Smith

Professor Ken Smith is no stranger to Mandarin readers, being a regular contributor. Ken is the CEO and Dean of the Australian and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), and Enterprise Professor at The University of Melbourne.

Ken served for more than three decades in the Queensland government, including as Director General of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet between 2007 and 2011. Additionally, he has had diverse public sector experience from roles in NSW and Tasmania.

Ken Smith

Ken has worked on many national policy issues over the past three decades, particularly in housing and urban affairs, social welfare and education. He has been involved in Commonwealth state negotiations from the early ’80s onwards, and has chaired many senior officer forums.

“There will be no return to business as usual. COVID-19 is making the GFC look like a teddy bear’s picnic and continues to turn many of our existing assumptions on their head.

 “The extent and depth of the economic and social dislocation resulting will make us rethink the ongoing role of government both locally and globally. There won’t be a ‘snap-back’ but a fundamental challenge for all of the public sector to help repair, rebuild and mould the full range of our policies and services.

 “The crisis has seen Australian governments and their agencies at all levels collaborate and quickly invent new responsive and evidence-based ways of working. We need to bottle that spirit of collaboration, innovation and creativity to further strengthen our federation.

 “To avoid the hard work and simply return to BAU would only further exacerbate divisions we have seen here in the past, but which have been amplified manifold in other nations. This is a great opportunity to continue to rebuild trust in our democratic institutions as we shift from effective response to a strong reconstruction phase. It is imperative we focus on those individuals, households and communities most impacted by the structural changes which will see in the next few years.”Ken Smith


Stephen Bartos

Stephen Bartos is the former deputy secretary of the commonwealth Finance Department and a director of Pegasus Economics.

Stephen is an expert in public sector governance, finance, strategy and risk. He is author of two books Against the Grain – The AWB Scandal and Why it Happened (UNSW Press, 2006) and the reference manual Public Sector Governance – Australia (CCH, 2004). He has written numerous refereed articles in scholarly journals and regular comment pieces on governance, fiscal policy and financial management.

Stephen Bartos

Stephen has been NSW Parliamentary Budget Officer, Executive Director of a leading consulting firm, and before that Professor of Governance and Director of the National Institute of Governance at the University of Canberra.

He previously worked in the Commonwealth Government for some 25 years. He was a Deputy Secretary in the Finance department and head of Budget Group, where he was responsible for advising Ministers on spending and non-tax revenue in the Commonwealth budget, government business enterprises, fiscal policy, accounting policies and public sector performance improvement.

“Management of COVID-19, while effective to date, is only the start. The challenge of economic recovery is next. It too is tiny compared to global challenges: climate change, global debt, the return of great power rivalries.

 “Our public service copes well with a crisis; recovering afterwards requires innovation both in policy and service delivery. After the crisis of WWII, the public service really shone in post-war reconstruction, charting a path for a new Australia.

 “The responsible department was small, fast moving, flexible; its leaders innovative, highly consultative, courageous but humble. We face a huge reconstruction task today; public service agencies and leaders need similar qualities.”  – Stephen Bartos

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