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Portfolios, Departments and Agencies: Tinkering with the Machinery-of-Government Map

A journal article by TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, Roger Wettenhall, reviews some recent interesting innovations in Australia in the way the ‘machinery of government’ is conceived. The article appeared in the Australasian Parliamentary Review vol. 31, no. 1 (Autumn/Winter 2016), pp98-116. Reproduced here by kind permission of the author and publisher.

‘In Australian machinery-of-government terminology, a fairly well settled view of the role of portfolios, departments, ministers and agencies and their inter-relationships has long existed, based on Westminster-system foundations. There have, however, been some challenges to that view in recent years arising from the practice of some government leaders in establishing their new governments, and, in one particular case, a Commission of Audit report.

‘This article looks particularly at how the traditional machinery-of-government understandings have been affected by such new government formations and Commission of Audit reporting. It finds that there has been some innovative ‘tinkering’ taking place. There is room for speculation as to how much this terminological experimentation will affect actual practice.’

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