The vexed question of politicisation and patronage in the Australian Public Service is explored in this article. Recent dismissals and appointments of department secretaries have raised concerns about political convenience, trends towards partisanship and the erosion of ‘frank and fearless’ advice. Alternatively, governments have come to insist on ‘partnership’ arrangements between ministers and secretaries, to enhance ‘political accountability’ and install new management teams to better implement government policy. But do such forms of politicisation risk drifting toward a new ‘spoils system’ most would want to avoid?
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