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Canberra Today 2°/5° | Monday, May 20, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

The seven secret steps of every public servant

There, lurking in the basement of Old Parliament House is the public service’s Australian Policy Cycle. Photo: Jugular Japes

“I had previously believed the APS to operate as a well-intentioned mess, but now I see a steely precision to its processes. According to the Cycle, every public servant secretly followed seven immutable steps,” writes JUGULAR JAPES, of KEEPING UP THE ACT.  

Lurking in the basement of Old Parliament House lies an ancient artefact that changes everything you thought to be true.

It all began when we were sitting in the Shush Capital treehouse, speculating on what debacle the ACT government would deliver us for next week’s strip. 

Andrea thought it might be Chris Steel accidently raising Mount Ainslie instead of London Circuit for the light rail, while Bob thought it might be Yvette Berry defending the ACT’s literacy levels as being “literally second too nun.”

Suddenly, the phone rang. It was one of our Lonsdale Street Irregulars with news that the Museum of Australian Democracy in Old Parliament House was holding an exhibition of all the best political cartoons of the year, and that ours weren’t included! 

While the rest of the team gave Mick Gentleman shrugs, I quietly fumed and vowed to investigate the matter. 

And so it was, on a rainy afternoon in May, that I entered Old Parliament House. As thunder rumbled in the distance, I made my way down the creaky stairs to the so-called-goddamn-best-cartoons exhibition. 

But before I could grumble at their glory, I caught an eerie glow off to my right. Intrigued, I cautiously made my way towards it and that’s when I saw them – a series of ghostly figures staring back at me!


I stared, transfixed. Then slowly, recognition dawned. The Spirit of Service room. I was looking at public servant ghosts! There was a bewildered old-timer who looked like he hadn’t got the memo on appropriate honorifics, a sweaty SES woman who had clearly been over-grilled by Estimates, and a PR spinner who had maybe spun things so much that he had corkscrewed himself from his corporeal form. Had I entered a portal to the Godwin Grech afterlife? 

Bracing myself, I inched past the APS apparitions, and there, rising out of the gloom, I saw it. The mythical Australian Policy Cycle! It was real! 

It was also huge, making da Vinci’s The Last Supper look like a try-hard postcard. But this massive mural purported to be the basis for how the whole Australian Public Service operated! Yes, hidden in the depths of Old Parliament House was the Rosetta Stone that deciphered everything! 

While I had previously believed the APS to operate as a well-intentioned mess, I could now see a steely precision to its processes. According to the Cycle, every public servant secretly, and consistently, followed seven immutable steps… 

  1. Identify Issues: Apparently, public servants do this instinctively all the time, and certainly not after getting a blast from the minister’s office or Ray Hadley. 
  2. Policy Analysis: According to the Cycle, the APS is chockers with experts who analyse every issue facing Australia and make perfect sense of them. 
  3. Policy Instruments: The public servants then come up with elegant solutions to all of Australia’s problems. 
  4. Co-ordination: Here, all the warring departments put aside their differences and joyously belt out Kumbaya to mermaids and unicorns. 
  5. Decision: Now, it is time for the relevant minister to sample what the APS has plated up and declare it delicious. Well, maybe needing extra pepper in some electorates. 
  6. Implementation: This is where the solutions are masterfully put in place to the satisfaction of everyone. 
  7. Evaluation: In this final stage, the APS hears how good it is, from independent consultants with a keen eye on future employment. 

As I read the last dot-point, the spectres raised their voices in unearthly unison: “Congratulations mortal, you are now a public servant. Report to Glyn on Monday.”

That was two weeks ago, and Glyn has chucked out old-mate Gordo, and made me the new Public Service Commissioner. My job now is to tackle why reality remains so persistent in trying to embarrass the Australian Policy Cycle?

Shuffling papers! I need to call Glyn! I think the Cycle may be missing an eighth step to smooth the flow… Suspension of disbelief! 

And, yes folks, the Australian Policy Cycle is real. Check it out at the Museum of Australian Democracy.

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Ian Meikle, editor

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