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‘Parting Reflections’ on the role of the public service

On his retirement as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affiars and Trade, Peter Varghese AO considers the role of the public service, and the importance of institutions. and the need for ‘deep policy thinking’:

‘Deep policy thinking is an area where our system, at both the political and the public service levels, has struggled over the last decade.

‘It is becoming harder for the political leadership to think deeply about new policy approaches. This means that governments come to power with headline policy positions, often without the backup of detailed policy analysis. Once in government they look to the public service to fill in the gaps.

‘The public service meanwhile has itself lost depth when it comes to policy thinking. And so we have had the two systems, political and bureaucratic, talking past each other and each nursing a quiet disappointment with the other.’

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