Gallop's Government: Strengthening Coordination in the Shadow of History

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Weller, Pat
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Phillimore, John
Kane, John
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This thesis sets the Gallop Labor government in Western Australian during the period 2001 to 2005 in its historic context. It seeks to understand the capacity that Gallop had to deliver on promises for a more coordinated agenda in the light of community, political and public sector expectations. In doing so, it examines his capacity from three perspectives: the leadership environment, the actors around him and the structures and routines he was able to use. Despite their best intentions, the capacity of all leaders is shaped by expectations and the structures and routines that they inherit. Only with time can those expectations and conventions be changed. The research draws on interviews with key actors around Gallop, documents published by Gallop’s government and the literature more broadly. Gallop was elected after only eight years in Opposition after the reputation of the Labor Party was destroyed by the findings of the WA Inc Royal Commission. He needed to establish his government’s credibility as a sound economic manager and to avoid at all costs perceptions of political appointments in the public service. He would also have been aware that Western Australian governments rarely get more than two terms so there was a sense of urgency to get things moving. This thesis shows Gallop as an aspirational leader who relied on his public sector to implement reforms but he did not introduce systemic mechanisms to oversee implementation. This is not unusual in first term governments where the focus is more commonly on instigating change. It shows that the constraints of legislation, and no doubt his own reluctance to intervene in the light of history, resulted in a strong demarcation between public sector and political staff. Gallop was clearly committed to a sustainable agenda. However, this meant that he faced the dilemma increasingly common to all leaders – any commitment to one interest group could be seen to disadvantage another. Therefore, attempts to provide balance across the environmental, social and economic spectrums could be seen as a lack of commitment or an ad hoc approach to decision making. Gallop’s reforms to the machinery of government and to the administration of Cabinet were in keeping with contemporary practice. He instituted the State’s first attempt at a strategic plan across the public sector. He championed increased participation of the community in policy development and strengthened the capacity of his department to coordinate across several policy areas. His five years at the helm resulted in significant reforms but there remained a sense that more could have been achieved. In focusing on three particular policy issues that Gallop tackled, I argue in this thesis that the traditional structures and routines can be successfully applied to those policy issues that can be reduced to relatively independent parts. However, those complex problems where the solutions to the parts are interdependent and which require on-going consultation and negotiation need new sets of skills and routines that are not likely to be an accepted part of the risk-averse culture so often found in bureaucracies. Moreover, the traditional coordination mechanisms of central oversight may detract from the likelihood that solutions will emerge. I argue that leaders could make more use of their accountability levers to monitor the collaborative capacity of central agencies and senior bureaucrats so that working together to solve problems becomes routine. What cannot be known, is whether or not Gallop like his contemporaries such as Blair in the UK or Beattie in Queensland would have increased his attention to implementation had he stayed for a full second term. Nor can we foretell whether he or his department would have been able to establish the routines and culture necessary to work collaboratively as a matter of course to solve the most complex problems he faced.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of Politics and Public Policy
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Western Australia
Labor government
Geoff Gallop
government and public policy
public sector culture
public administration
government reforms
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