Craft and capacity in the public service

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Over the past 8 years, debates about Australia's public service have evolved from being focused mainly on skills and capacities to being now increasingly concerned about the operating environment for career officials, their ability to fulfil their stewardship obligations, and to practice their 'craft'. In this article, I track those changes and ask what is the craft of public administration? How should we understand it? Are concerns it is imperilled or has been lost valid or overblown? I draw on the observations of current and former senior officials, and the findings of recent Capability Reviews. My primary focus is on the Australian Public Service, because here is where the debate has been most public and direct. I note that the focus of concern has shifted from public servants towards ministers, who have been largely absent from public sector reform initiatives of the past 40 years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Journal of Public Administration
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Craft of public administration
  • Policy capacity
  • Policy skills
  • Public sector reform

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