Chris Minns’ plan to downsize the public service is not working

Whitfield only spent two years at the NSW Treasury, but they were widely regarded as a success. He helped rebuild the processes and systems underlying government spending management, shifting the focus from tracking individual funding actions to measuring the effectiveness of specific spending outcomes across government. He also played a central role in Baird’s push to privatize the state’s power distribution facilities, about which opinions differ.

Rob Whitfield (left) became NSW Chief Financial Officer under then Prime Minister Mike Baird (right).

Rob Whitfield (left) became NSW Chief Financial Officer under then Prime Minister Mike Baird (right).Credit:Kate Geraghty

Phil Gaetjens was Whitfield’s predecessor at NSW Treasury. Gaetjens later rose to become Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary in Scott Morrison’s government, where he was a controversial figure. In this role, however, Gaetjens doubled his NSW salary.

Also consider the role of NSW Minister of Health, who earns just over $600,000. The secretary makes less than ABC’s CEO, who has more than a million dollars a year. The ABC has about 5,000 employees and an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. NSW Health employs approximately 164,000 people and has a budget of US$33 billion. But there are clamors that the state is funding a costly gravy train by overpaying its senior executives.

Wesfarmers, a public company that owns Kmart, Bunnings, Priceline and Target, employs fewer people than NSW Health but paid its CEO $7.5 million last year.

Now that Minns has committed to cuts and pay freezes, how can he expect a government he leads to recruit talent in a tight labor market where wages are being eroded by inflation? Worse, his message could persuade capable, high-ranking officials, even the next-lowest types who once wanted to be department heads, to leave the government rather than serve.

Few who attack public service realize how precarious it can be to rise to the top ranks of senior civil servants compared to the private sector. In the private sector, a board of directors wishing to oust an officer must follow proper governance processes. It is different under the NSW Government Employment Sector Act. “The employer of a senior public servant may terminate the senior executive’s employment at any time for without giving reasons and without prior notice.”

If the health, education or transport minister doesn’t like his minister or wants to throw him under a bus, he can simply be fired. You will receive a maximum of 38 weeks of salary on the way out.

In 2021 the number of senior staff in NSW’s public sector increased by 10.4 per cent, with much of this increase coming from transport infrastructure projects and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic – meaning short-term jobs.


If Minns becomes prime minister, he needs good advisers. Cabinets are often made up of ministers, not all elected by a prime minister, but rather the result of paybacks and party-room deals. That is why the heads of department are often referred to as the prime minister’s brains. If you have a third-rate minister, it matters less as long as you have a first-class head of department who provides strategic and independent advice and who, through leadership, demonstrates the government’s overall competence and capability.

If Minns wins he will need the public service to deliver on his vision for NSW. He may have to depoliticize the civil service if he wants that.

The Opinion newsletter is a weekly collection of views that challenge, support and inform your own. Login here. Chris Minns’ plan to downsize the public service is not working

Justin Scacco

InternetCloning is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button