Public service honours handed out amid the leadership chaos


Recipients of the Public Service Medal and the Medal of the Order of Australia were celebrated at an event in Canberra last night.

Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service Kelly O’Dwyer, and backbench MP (but maybe frontbencher by next week) Tim Wilson and several APS agency and portfolio heads were on hand to honour the recipients.

THE LIST: Queen’s birthday honours: the public servants recognised

Below is a transcript of O’Dwyer’s remarks at the ceremony:


Australia has proudly honoured the tireless and outstanding work of public servants for many years now.

Back when Australians were recognised through the British Imperial system, one particular public servant, Ms Hazel Craig, was honoured by the Queen three times.

“Your loyalties and your devotion don’t lie with one side of politics or the other, but rather with the people of Australia.”

During Hazel’s 42-year career in the public service, she served five Prime Ministers as Private Secretary.

Hazel was described as the perfect public servant, with one colleague reportedly noting that, “she served the Labor Party with the same loyalty and dedication as the Liberals.” And I believe this is true of all public servants.

Your loyalties and your devotion don’t lie with one side of politics or the other, but rather with the people of Australia.

This gives you all a special place in the Australian political system.

As an aside this is especially so during those times of upheaval and uncertainty such as the one we are experiencing at this moment in our history.

Throughout the occasional tumult of the legislative branch of Government, the administrative branch of Government – the Australian Public Service – continues to serve the Australian people.

Diligently, conscientiously, equitably.

As former Prime Minister John Howard once said, the Australian Public Service is “a prized national asset.”

And because of the nature of what you do, your work often goes unnoticed, and, in some cases, it’s even unknown to your family and friends.

I think we can all agree: you don’t become a public servant for the accolades or admiration.

You’re driven instead by a deep desire to help create a better country.

And that’s why tonight is such a special occasion.

It’s an opportunity to shine a light on your remarkable achievements, and honour your hard work.

I’m heartened by the stories of tonight’s Public Service Medal recipients. They show the remarkable diversity and high-quality of work that happens right across the APS.

For example, tonight we honour Ms Jane Gallagher who has shown our veterans compassion and respect by finding ways to support them so they could return to past battlefields for war commemorations.

We honour Mr Allan McKinnon who, for the better part of a decade, has worked tirelessly to keep Australia safe, and played a crucial role in the creation of the new Home Affairs portfolio.

And we honour Mr Gary Johnston who has worked both here at home and led international efforts to improve satellite positioning. This technology is used for an array of applications, from personal navigation using smartphones, to measuring the drift of continents in support of geoscience.

We are also honouring Mr Mark Konza who has been instrumental and at the forefront in protecting the integrity and revenues of the Australian and global tax systems, something that has been a priority of the Turnbull Government and especially for me as the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services.

I wish I could mention all of tonight’s recipients, but time simply doesn’t permit. But to all of you I extend my congratulations – and my deep appreciation.

There is, however, one being honoured here this evening of whom I must make special mention – Mrs Debbie Bowden, who is being awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.

“Because of the nature of what you do, your work often goes unnoticed, and, in some cases, it’s even unknown to your family and friends.”

It’s fitting that we honour Debbie, given that she has spent the last 32 years making sure other remarkable Australians receive recognition.

Debbie has worked behind the scenes at Government House, in the Australian Honours and Awards Secretariat, to ensure that our awards processes run smoothly and seamlessly. Her part in recognising our Australian role models has helped to define, encourage and reinforce our national aspirations, ideals and standards.

I applaud you Debbie for your passion to your work.

Congratulations, and thank you for more than three decades of outstanding work.

Our Prime Minister has said in the past that “the government could not formulate or implement any policy of substance without our Public Service.”

All of us who sit around the Cabinet table know this and respect your value.

Congratulations on your achievements, thank you for commitment, dedication and hard work.

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