Codify relationship with ministerial staffers: Blacher

He reformed local government, put on the Commonwealth Games and created a new department with eight ministers. But Yehudi Blacher says ministerial advisers often don’t make it easy.

Victoria’s new government should look at codifying the relationship between ministerial staffers and public servants, argues the former secretary of the Department of Planning and Community Development.

“Advisers are here to stay, so you’ve got to make it work,” Yehudi Blacher told The Mandarin in an interview canvassing his long career. Blacher was recently awarded an Institute of Public Administration Australia national fellowship.

As a departmental head in the Victorian public service and deputy secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet before that, Blacher has dealt with his fair share of ministerial advisers. During his public service career, he saw government change hands four times and at one stage answered to eight ministers.

Codification of the relationship may help mollify some of the irritation many public servants feel at the role of overzealous “teenagers” in policy-making, Blacher suggests. “The reality is that it’s a complex triangle — the minister, the minister’s office and the department,” he said.

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