Victoria aims to reclaim reform, integrity leadership

Restoring Victoria’s progressive leadership mantle dominated conversations at IPAA Victoria’s Public Sector Week. Both in front of mixed audiences and in private sessions, senior government and bureaucratic figures asked openly for support to again reform what was once the ever-innovating Victorian public sector.

Victorian Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings led the charge early, laying out his aims for government integrity agencies and reaffirming his commitment to giving them the powers they need to restore confidence in government and public sector policy and delivery. With minority governments increasingly the norm across Australia, Jennings said the public were showing their alienation from government.

The key planks of restoring confidence, he said, were the government’s agenda of transparency and accountability. They include expanding the role of the Freedom of Information commissioner to cover more public access issues including the authority to review department decisions, giving the auditor-general powers to follow the dollar into private sector beneficiaries, and reforming corruption watchdog restrictions that inhibit IBAC’s ability to instigate corruption investigations.

Additionally, Jennings has introduced legislation to create Infrastructure Victoria — intended to improve trust in government infrastructure planning, following protracted controversy over the East West Link.

Chris Eccles, secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, went further after his address on leadership from the centre. Eccles, whose last position was head of the NSW premier’s department, has a unique perspective into how bad behaviour has impacted both NSW and Victoria where VPS bureaucrats are daily reading the transcripts of Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission hearings into the Department of Education and VicRoads:

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