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Weatherill's public sector dilemma

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As the leader of a governing party’s that’s been in power for 12 years, pitching a message of change is a double-edged sword.

Premier Jay Weatherill today released his “Modern Public Service” policy, promising a more open, efficient and productive effort from the state’s more than 100,000 public servants.

That promise, however, implies that it hasn’t been so open, efficient and productive over the last 12 years.

Governments with such longevity would prefer to be able to stand on their record of achievements; Weatherill, however, distanced himself from the nine and a half years of the Rann administration when he took over in October 2011.

“I’m not Mike Rann,” he often said as he carved out his own period as Premier.

So, what does the Modern Public Service policy offer?

“The public of South Australia can expect a better service and, if things go wrong, a quicker response to their complaints,” it says.

“The South Australian Government will become a more innovative and productive workplace.

“Red tape will be reduced for business and community organisations.”

One unfortunate slip in the document is the promise for more openness and transparency, claiming to have already “made government data available at unprecedented levels”.

The claim comes just days after The Advertiser revealed the commitment to publish monthly statements of ministerial credit card expenditure had failed with an online site for publication of the data not updated since its launch last October.

“I want people to be confident about government because I want to run a progressive, reformist government,” Weatherill said in October.

“I can’t achieve what I want to achieve if people are cynical about government.”

Last Friday The Advertiser ran a two-page spread detailing how Weatherill, Health and Ageing Minister Jack Snelling and Finance Minister Michael O’Brien were the worst offenders in not publishing their expenses statements.

The Premier’s office quickly supplied two months worth of data, but the damage had been done.

Today’s Modern Public Service policy outlines 17 initiatives, many of which appear to be directed at the 100,000 public servants who represent a large block of votes.

These include greater recognition of public service excellence and more opportunity for young people in the public sector.

The timing of the policy also raises the pressure on State Liberal Leader Steven Marshall as it comes a year to the day that Marshall said he would release a comprehensive public sector policy “soon”.

The Liberals today preferred to focus on Labor’s recent pre-selection problems, launching a television commercial video that summarised Friday’s implosion by Senator Don Farrell who launched, then abandoned his bid for a safe seat in State Parliament.

Labor has also launched a negative campaigning tool – a “Liberal cut counter” website purporting to summarise Marshall’s spending promises and calculating what he will have to cut to pay for them.

 

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