Bipartisan support for apolitical, merit appointments in NSW

Two weeks out from the NSW election, both major parties have made now made clear statements in support of apolitical, merit-based public service appointments. Labor won’t fire current departmental heads if elected, but its messaging on privatisation and contestability is less clear.

A fortnight out from the New South Wales election, Labor has promised not to purge any public service heads, and to re-examine all proposals for privatisation currently on the table, starting with the award-winning shared services provider ServiceFirst.

Opposition leader Luke Foley says if he wins on March 28, he will run an apolitical, professional public service where mandarins can give robust, impartial advice and have no concerns about their job security. The comments mean there is now bipartisan support in NSW for a return to such principles.

The then-O’Farrell government charged the NSW Public Service Commission with protecting the same principles when it was established in 2011.

Shadow minister for industrial relations, Adam Searle, suggested Labor would avoid making appointments that could be seen as “political” and said that when public servants feel their jobs are not secure, there is a tendency for them to say what they think the ministers want to hear.

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