July 05, 2009 | Ronda Jambe

Still Creamin it in Canberra

It’s winter, some days the temperature doesn’t go much above 12C. There is a lot of plodding, as I’ve rejoined the work force, yet again, for a little while. And on a sunny day, rugged up against the blustery wind, there is still a mild exhilaration in being a public servant in the capital of this still lucky country.
Previously I’ve mentioned the boredom that too often goes with bad management in the public sector. Today I’ll talk about the flip side of that: the talent and professionalism that underlies the irritation when not fully deployed. But first a bit of perspective.
The government of California, with an economy probably bigger than Australia’s, has started issuing IOUs for payments. Many other state governments in the US are asking employees to take days off on no pay. Revenues are collapsing, and some cities have decided to cancel the fourth of July fireworks rather than lay off more staff. Tough call in a country as patriotic as the US.
Does anyone really doubt that the US is going broke? The final program on The Ascent of Money described Chimerica, in terms not much different from my blog about the US and China being ‘conjoined at the hipocket’. It said that by about 2025 the Chinese economy will be bigger than the US, which will have no manufacturing left. What does that imply for the might of the US military, or its pensions or its public services?
Here we are spending big time: a new gym on a high school up the street, and roads and bike paths at the coast. Feels good, even though such measures aren’t going to build the economy of the future, which will need public transport more than second gyms for schools.
Unlike my colleagues in Africa, my pay will be generous and arrive like clockwork. My office kitchenette comes supplied with seemingly endless coffee, tea and milk. Morning teas are polite and frequent.
And the project I’ll be helping with, which involves lots of ‘integration’ and ‘cross sectoral governance’ will be worthwhile and a money saver. Sometimes when a project cops no flack from either side, it’s because it’s simply a good idea. No ethical conflicts there for me. I don’t think I’ll be bored.
My partner said the only people who bag public servants are those who have never seen them at work, or been one. Talking to counter staff at Centrelink is a different world, and those public servants could tell the rest of us a thing or two about social problems that would make your hair stand on end.
But at the Canberra core, where the policy gets made and the stakeholders get managed, it is often an eye-opener to see how informed, professional, educated and open-minded public servants are. (Hey, that’s me!) Keep us busy and you’ll have our full attention and commitment. Treat us badly and you will get serious sulking and high turnover.
It looks like the lucky dip came up for me this time, and wandering around the Parliamentary Triangle, checking out the latest cafes hidden in the renovated buildings, it is hard not to be proud to be part of this country’s silent army of policy makers, program implementers, public communicators, treaty developers and record keepers.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 5:48 pm | Comments Off on Still Creamin it in Canberra |
Filed under: Society

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.