Queensland’s new phase of service reform: empowering leaders

After a tumultuous period, a new Queensland survey shows the public sector is more settled and empowered. Commissioner Andrew Chesterman talks to The Mandarin.

Andrew Chesterman

Andrew Chesterman

Some 90,159 Queensland public servants from 53 agencies responded to more than 100 questions in a recent employee survey. That level of engagement — a 42% response rate; up 4% on last year — was pleasing enough for Andrew Chesterman, who just clocked 12 months in the job as the state’s public service commissioner.

But the results were even better news. On all measures, sentiment is up. Which, given the tumultuous few years under the sharp axe of Premier Campbell Newman’s government, is an achievement Chesterman is proud of.

Chesterman stepped into the role last September, after a stint as director-general of the Department of Environment and Heritage and before that on Team Newman at the Brisbane City Council. With the “fiscal repair reductions” completed, the task of “building the culture and the values across the public sector” could begin.

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  • roger dennis scott

    Your uncritical article includes the following : “Of the loss of staff across the ranks of government — an unprecedented cull of 14,000 workers after Newman won government in 2012 — Chesterman admits it’s been “heartfelt”. But he told The Mandarin from his Albert Street office in Brisbane things are on the up.”

    There have been on-going and widespread staff cuts since the original purge, so it is not surprising that survivors are relieved, even “heartfelt”. Before the last election, Newman campaigned on statements of sympathy for public servants, many of whom were hurt and offended by the Bligh government’s own budgetary restraint and its experiment with privatisation. In his campaign literature and in a video located on the public service union’s website in its search for even-handedness, Newman explicitly promised that “no public servant had anything to fear for a Newman government.” The axes started falling immediately and staff cuts have nibbled away ever since, until a recent change of heart and rhetoric.

    Now, with another election looming, everything is sweetness and light. In a long career which has included positions as a professor of public administration, a vice chancellor and a director-general, I have never before witnessed anything approaching this level of cynicism in public office-holders.