Govt denies politicisation

by Chris Griffith
Written 1994


my face


The State Government yesterday denied Queensland public servants were performing Labor Party campaign work -- discussing election and marginal seat strategies, and the handling of issues politically damaging to the government.

The accusation, from Opposition Leader Rob Borbidge, follows the embarrassing leaking of the agenda of a meeting between Family Services Minister Anne Warner and senior departmental officials held at Yungabah last Wednesday.

Ms Warner yesterday was unavailable for comment.

However her media advisor confirmed Wednesday's meeting had taken place, but denied its agenda was evidence that public servants were performing political duties.

According to the leaked document, the agenda for the October 12 meeting included election issues, and discussion on eight "issues politically damaging" to the government.

It requested a "Ministerial response to concept of `family package' and marginal seat issues for the Department".

The eight issues listed as "politically damaging" were Basil Stafford, the Heiner/Coyne/Lindeberg case, Juvenile Justice, Law and Order, Disability, and three issues involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders - accountability, Gregory Downs, and a union complaint.

Mr Borbidge yesterday said the agenda was clear evidence of public service involvement in political matters, and represented "another nail in the coffin of Premier Wayne Goss's rhetoric commitment to a depoliticised public sector".

"The first topic for discussion [election issues] is purely political, as, effectively, are eight of the total of the 13 topics set down for discussion," he said.

"It is particularly interesting to note that the so-called Heiner affair, ostensibly off the agenda as far as the government is concerned, because it is allegedly old-hat, is actually a hot topic of conversation at the highest levels in the department."

However Ms Warner's spokeswoman said the minister's office could not work in isolation from the department, and the meeting was "appropriate and proper".

She said the Department expected a strong demand in marginal seats for information on its programs, and the information was available to candidates from all parties in any seats.

She would neither confirm nor deny the government's intention to release a "family package" in the lead-up to next year's election.

A political scientist from Griffith University, Dr John Wanna, said the Family Services Department had no right to be involved in political activities, especially those relating to Labor marginal seats.

However he said it was legitimate the department provide information on its services to candidates and voters in all seats at next year's election - including marginal seats.

The 1989 Fitzgerald Report warned about the politicisation of the Queensland public service.

"The boundaries between the creation of policy, in which political considerations may legitimately be taken into account, and the application of that policy, in which political considerations have no place, are however, easily blurred," the report warned.

by Chris Griffith