Kathy MacDermott

Dr Kathy MacDermott has taught in universities in Australia and the United States and worked in the senior executive service of the Australian Public Service in the areas of industrial relations policy and public sector governance. She is a member of the Democratic Audit of Australia and the Centre for Policy Development. Her most recent publications include Whatever happened to ‘frank and fearless’? (for the Australia and New Zealand School of Government) and Marketing Government (for the Democratic Audit of Australia), and contributions to More than Luck (for the Centre for Policy Development) and the Australian Review of Public Affairs.

Whatever Happened to Frank and Fearless? »

The impact of new public management on the Australian Public Service

Authored by: Kathy MacDermott
Publication date: July 2008
In this evidence-based and closely argued work, Kathy MacDermott plots the changes in the culture of the Australian Public Service that have led many contemporary commentators to lament the purported loss of traditional public service values of impartiality, intellectual rigour and — most importantly — the willingness of public servants at all levels to offer frank and fearless advice to their superiors and their ministers. MacDermott brings to her analysis an insider’s sensibility and a thorough forensic analysis of the impact of some 20 years of relentless administrative ‘reform’ on the values and behaviour of the APS. Although this story has its beginnings in the Hawke-Keating eras, MacDermott convincingly argues that structural and cultural change compromising the integrity of the public service reached its apogee towards the end of the eleven years of the Howard government. This is a ‘must read’ for students of Australian political and administrative history. MacDermott offers cautionary observations that the new national government might do well to heed.