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Who’s in charge – the politicians or the ‘safe seat’ bureaucrats?

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IN RECENT days there have been smiles all round within NSW Premier Berejiklian’s victorious Coalition government. Undoubtedly, the winners of the impending Federal election also will be grinning widely as they mouth platitudes such as “let’s get to work running this country”.

But who’s really running the nation – elected politicians or the bureaucrats embedded within our Westminster system of government?

In the 12 years in my Executive role within non-government organisation IWC, it has become abundantly clear that the latter is the case.

Astoundingly, our elected representatives seem to be little more than handmaidens to the entrenched and intransigent processes of bureaucracy.

Senior public servants enjoy the ultimate “safe seats”, while sitting politicians are “put in a box”, subjected to a containment process that quashes attempts to deliver entrepreneurship and progress.

As a result, our government bureaucracy is this nation’s strategist, policymaker, fundholder and decision-maker – and these senior public servants are embedded in the system, around for election after election. No wonder, then, that little changes for the better.

It would be good to know our senior public servants are accountable and visible. But this is not the case, and this should change.

The senior public servant “safe seats” must go, and in their place performance-based measurements be imposed. Key Performances Indicators (KPIs) for public servants must be in line with promises made by elected politicians. The existing model has failed to cut red tape, promote real entrepreneurism, reduce waste, or genuinely encourage and mentor investment, all of which would deliver outcomes and drive real benefits for the community.

In short, our nation’s government operations should be in touch with community needs, but also reflect sound business principles.

Integrity and accountability, independent thinking and entrepreneurship should be the foundations on which policies are driven, taxpayer money spent and decisions made.

IWC works to a private / community business model that utilises some government funding for program delivery, with a solid level of self-generated income to support our flexible, “outside the box” thinking that reflects and responds to the real needs of our communities.

In saying all of the above, I won’t win a popularity contest with our bureaucrats or politicians. But IWC has never “gone with the flow” for a safe and quiet life, which is why we are achieving real outcomes that are inclusive of all people in our communities.

So to our politicians I say, don’t allow yourself to be fenced in. Be courageous, don’t accept the status quo of bureaucratic power and break out of the box. Your community will thank you for it.