Myth, Monolith or Normative Model? Evolution of the Career Service Model of Employment in the Queensland Public Service 1859-2000
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Public services play an essential role in society, and every citizen uses them. They have traditionally been the principal means of implementing the political will, through policy development and implementation. Yet it is almost a national sport to criticise public servants. Their image is often poor, fed by television programmes such as Yes Minister. Common perceptions include that they have little real merit, do not work hard, are under little pressure to perform, are too powerful, are almost impossible to dismiss, and could benefit from some private sector experience. Such are the consequences of the career service model of employment that public servants enjoy. This thesis considers the much-maligned career service model of public sector employment relations, and asks how important it was, how it evolved, and why. First, it outlines the traditional understanding of public service employment, with its central tenets of merit, tenure, standardised conditions and political neutrality, all administered by an independent central personnel agency, and then explores the adoption, adaptation and reform of that model in three major western democracies - Britain, the United States and Australia. Then, it considers the implementation and evolution of that model in the Queensland public service from 1859 to 2000. The thesis argues that the traditional career service model was necessary to overcome problems of politicisation, corruption, insecurity and inefficiency that arose from the previous patronage model in the early 1800s. The model contained sound principles that were largely consistent with Westminster conventions, and were considered necessary for effective service in a political environment. Poor implementation of the model led to growing dissatisfaction by the late 20th century. However, rather than diagnose the problem as poor implementation and perhaps inadequate political leadership of the service, the career service model itself was found deficient, and was subjected to extensive reform through the weakening of its central tenets. The evolution of the career service demonstrates some circularity, as the problems of politicisation and insecurity that existed prior to the career service model begin to re-emerge.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of Industrial Relations