Peter Shergold on The Ethical Framework (of Professional Public Service)


I’m at IPAA NSW conference on the Future Course of Modern Government, where I gave the opening keynote on The Transformation of Government

I was followed by Christian Bason, Director of Denmark’s MindLab. The third keynote was delivered by Professor Peter Shergold, previously Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australia’s most senior public servant, and now Chairman of the NSW Public Sector Commission Advisory Board.

Peter spoke passionately about the values that underlie public service. He absolutely recognizes changes in the environment and the potential of new technologies. However he very rightly emphasized that there is much that does not change in the public service.

Peter laid out the following ethical framework and points in his presentation. The words by themselves are important, but Peter’s discussion of these was absolutely inspiring. He suggests the public service should be a role model for a civil, democratic, comparing society. In his presentation he described the following ethical framework for how the public service should work.

THE ETHICAL FRAMEWORK (of Professional Public Service)
* serve successive governments with equal commitment
* provide robust policy advice in confidence
* deliver policy decision with commitment

* the best person for the job
* with supported career pathways


* honesty
* consistency
* impartiality
* acting in the public interest

* respectful
* empathic
* compassionate
* collaborative

* quality-focused
* citizen-centric
* innovative 
* flexible

* responsibility
* transparency
* public scrutiny
* appointments on merit

Peter’s presentation was inspiring, presenting a vision for what the NSW government – or indeed any public service – can be. While the world changes, in some cases resulting in shifts to the structure of the public sector, the underlying values of the public sector should not change. That provides the platform for creating value in a changing world.