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The overhauled public service may be more efficient, but at what cost to good government?

Markus Mannheim comments for the ABC (6.12.19) on the Prime Minister’s announced restructuring of the Australian public service, which will see the number of federal departments reduced from 18 to 14.

‘Every prime minister fiddles with the public service, divvying up government departments to stamp their mark and to soothe competing ministers’ egos.

‘These reshuffles aren’t cheap and tend to cause ongoing administrative headaches for staff.

‘But they usually don’t alter much at all. It’s rare that one machinery-of-government change is implemented in full before the next is announced.

‘Scott Morrison’s overhaul, announced on Thursday, is different. It may be the most significant change to the government’s structure in more than 30 years.

‘The Prime Minister says he will reduce the number of departments from 18 to 14. At the same time, he indicated he won’t reduce his cabinet, which now includes 23 ministers.

‘This is a big step away from the principles of cabinet government: the idea that each portfolio has a single champion in cabinet, armed with their department’s best advice, allowing cabinet to reach consensus after vigorous debate.’

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