Civil Service Systems in Comparative Perspective series
Edited by John Halligan
Chapter 4: The Australian public service: redefining boundaries
John Halligan INTRODUCTION The Australian system is a variant of Westminster that exhibits features of the Whitehall model and maintains a close relationship with Britain. The evolution of the Australian and British systems has been concurrent since the 19th century, and the emergence of a Canberra model is well recognised (Butler 1973). Australia’s central government is relatively young in two senses: it was inaugurated only 100 years ago; and it came to preside nationally only during the second half of its existence (that is, from the Second World War). The culmination of the Australian system’s first 80 years was a highly bounded organisation – a public service formed by decades of evolutionary expansion and the growth of discretion. (It was also constitutionally embedded and constrained by the federal system, but it lacked the prescriptions acquired through a long history.) The response in the last two decades of the 20th century was reform that was extensive and, arguably (according to Aucoin 1995), more far-reaching than the reforms in other federal systems. The lack of frameworks for examining reform led Self (1978, pp. 312–14) to draw on general analyses of public administration that delineated components that were subject to change. Accordingly, ‘three arenas of behaviour and belief’ were distinguished – the social, the political and the bureaucratic – each associated with an agenda (see Pierre 1995). The first two focus on relationships between a bureaucracy and its environment (that is, they are external); the third is internal. These categories provided a basis for demarcating...
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