Outgoing National President Peter Shergold: public servants are a foundation of democratic governance, vital to Australia’s future

Professor Peter Shergold AC announces the 2019 Sam Richardson Award winners

Professor Peter Shergold AC delivers his 2019 National President’s Address

Professor Peter Shergold AC gave the National President’s Address at the 2019 IPAA National Conference ‘Crossroads > Future Directions’ held in Darwin recently.

During his address, Professor Shergold made two important points — “that the role of professional public administrators is more important than ever” and “that IPAA must continue to play a key role in maintaining, even protecting, the vocational ethos of a merit-based public service”.

In making his observations Professor Shergold assured conference delegates that “these were not just some comforting rhetorical clichés delivered in fond farewell… in fact… they are born of discomfit”.

“These, let me not mince my words, are challenging times in which the public’s trust in politicians is at a historically low level and which faith in the benefits of democracy itself — especially amongst young people — is in decline. So in this troubling environment we need us: we need public administrators, we need policy-makers, we need service deliverers, we need regulators who are imbued with the spirit that good public policy should be based on evidence and experience, and who, through our training, are always seeking to find compromise and consensus.”

Professor Shergold went on to make clear that groups of ministerial adviser, and the work of consultancy companies to provide advice to government are good things, but noted that “the ministerial advisers and consultants are not enough: the role that they play is quite different to those of us who are public servants, public administrators, in the way that we serve elected politicians.”

Read the 2019 National President’s address in full.