Public servants’ priority now covering arses: Gareth Evans

The former Labor frontbencher reckons politicians’ respect for the professionalism of public servants has diminished. “The rot set in under [John] Howard,” he tells The Mandarin.

Inside the Hawke–Keating Government: A Cabinet Diary

Inside the Hawke–Keating Government: A Cabinet Diary

The politicisation of the bureaucracy “has created an environment in which the first imperative for any public servant is to cover his or her arse”, according to former foreign minister Gareth Evans.

Reflecting on how the relationship between politicians and the public service had changed since his own time in the job, Evans — who recently launched a new book, Inside the Hawke-Keating Government: A Cabinet Diary — told The Mandarin he believed “the triumph of the apparatchik in ministerial offices has gone many steps further than it sensibly should have”.

“Think of the way in which we inherited John Stone in the Treasury under Paul Keating. A lot of people thought this was going to be impossible. It wasn’t all that happy a relationship, and in the event Stone moved on — but there was no question of him being sacked,” he said.

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