That is a function of other government departments. The implication of those views is that the diarchy, when applied in the manner promoted by the Defence leadership, is against the spirit of the accountability requirements for such operations. That advice nominates five areas to focus on. Permanent Secretaries have an individual and a collective responsibility. An individual responsibility to serve their respective ministers, to oversee the performance and ongoing improvement of their department. They also have a collective responsibility to serve the government as a whole by supporting and moving forward the government agenda.
They have a collective responsibility But it remains the case that Dr Hawke possessed knowledge in October about the misrepresentation of photographs, and in November about the absence of corroborative evidence in Defence intelligence material and reports concerning claims of children being thrown overboard. That this was to no avail in terms of the minister amending the public record is completely unacceptable.
Thus the diarchy contributed to the failure by the Defence minister to correct the public record. It is meant to facilitate accuracy, timeliness and accountability. It is certainly not meant to be an impediment to full and frank advice going to the minister. Departmental secretaries have a particularly important part to play in serving the government as a whole, and especially in ensuring that they convey to their ministers advice on issues that may have a political dimension.
The diarchy inhibited Dr Hawke from discharging those responsibilities. As has been made clear in Chapter 5, it is incontrovertible that sufficient advice was passed from the ADO to ministerial staff providing ample justification for a correction, by the minister, of the public record.
The second is that a whole-of-government approach to issues requires a substantial rethinking of concepts of accountability and how senior public servants might exercise their accountability function horizontally across policy and operational alliances as well as vertically through their own organisation to their minister. For the Committee, such questions go to the heart of sound administrative practice. We expect public actors to account to the legislature, the courts and the citizenry and to other agencies with whom they coproduce public goods. Multidimensionality therefore begets complexity.
In the new world of enterprising government, the public official is expected to both honour his or her official mandate and to move freely outside the hierarchical constraints Rather, it now involves what might be thought of as the appropriate exercise of a navigational competence: that is, the proper use of authority to range freely across a multirelationship terrain in search of the most advantageous path to success. As their value and frequency increases, more intense becomes the imperative that they be conducted in a robust and coherent way.
The participating agencies must be effective collaborators without putting at risk their discrete responsibilities.
The preferred modus operandi of an IDC can be broadly expressed in the following terms. The evidence in this regard is somewhat contradictory. That was partly in response to the Tampa range of issues—because that was developing, as you know, very quickly—but partly also because we had had a range of boats coming into Australia and we thought that you really needed a more concerted focus on what was happening and on government responses.
I certainly thought that in DIMIA, in order to bring together the whole-of-government effort, you needed a mechanism which would do that on an ongoing basis rather than on an ad hoc basis—that is, on the basis of working level contacts and then occasionally phone calls and so on at senior level. We had a job to do, which was to bring together all the government agencies involved to respond to this phenomenon of illegal boat arrivals The PST was set up and run on the basis that it provided advice on policy and operational issues as they arose. It is important to understand that the role of the PST was not to insert itself into the chain of command within departments or the military.
My habit as chair was to start every meeting with a roundtable update from every agency. I always asked those attending to update the group, to raise any issues that they wish discussed or considered and to ensure that all members were fully informed.
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The need to ensure we were kept fully informed was reinforced on many occasions. Where issues or concerns emerged, these were followed up and advice provided. With hindsight, it is clear that some information which was available elsewhere was not passed to the PST. It had no power to take decisions. Decisions were taken by ministers or where individual departments had delegated authority in respect of those delegations. It discussed issues as they arose and it discussed the handling of those. It provided an opportunity As you know, it is the classic conundrum of whole-of-government exercises that individual departments do not always get the information that other departments have, and this was a mechanism to ensure that those departments were all privy to the same information As you know, the group prepared briefing papers and option papers in particular areas, so you are already aware that there was one provided on the evening of 7 October.
What the paper did In some cases it reflected an accord about issues and in some cases it reflected a difference of view, which again you would expect—agencies come from different perspectives. It was important that in this particular case the Prime Minister understand that the agencies sometimes had a slightly different perspective on those issues.
The script — one of a series that had been developed - was unique in this respect. It is worth quoting at some length for the insights it gives into how the PST went about its business. The Committee notes that some Defence personnel clearly believed that the PST was calling the shots, and that it was PST decisions that determined how they were to respond as each situation unfolded. For example, in describing Operation Relex he stated:. Were these Defence officials inadequately briefed on the relationship between Operation Relex and the PST, or did Defence as a whole have similar views?
Or were there some inadequacies in the PST, either in the way its membership was structured or in the communication protocols that existed between the PST and its contributing agencies? In terms of the decision making [in the PST] In terms of advice to the Prime Minister, we were not involved in We were never a party to the broader distribution of those pieces of paper by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
I think in one case That may have happened on other occasions, but we were not the master of that information. There was one form of product from the IDC prepared by Prime Minister and Cabinet for the information of, or decision making by, the Prime Minister and possibly other ministers. The essence of this whole operation was to have agreement amongst the agencies about the text and the advice. I think we have canvassed previously that There was no point at which that final [October 7 options paper] document — and, indeed, any final document that we put through — was disputed.
It was not there to be disputed. Ms Halton told the Committee:. These materials were considered sensitive, and agencies were not given copies of the document. The document was assembled from the combined inputs of the participating agencies. Any sensitive material would have emanated from the agencies themselves, and presumably their representatives were appropriately cleared to deal with such sensitivities. Such a refusal also impeded representatives from reporting back as fully as they might to their own agencies.
The PST was meant to have been a whole-of-government operation, and yet it seems the agencies involved were deliberately deprived of the final whole-of-government view of the PST. Agencies working on whole-of-government projects are likely to become quickly disenchanted if the lead agency appears patronising, or conveys a lack of confidence in the discretion of the participants, or does not provide adequate feedback on outcomes. The high-level group shared information as well as, in a sense, trying to give some strategic direction on the way that the whole particular bits of the strategy were being implemented.
Sometimes there was a product of the meeting It was the nature of the iterative process of the work. So, no, those minutes were not subsequently referred to me. For me, no. I am concerned with effectiveness and with outcomes. That means that I am concerned about paper trails where there is a quite appropriate requirement for a paper trail, in an audit or other sense, but successive governments have made it clear that they want a public service that is able to be flexible and get the job done.
That, for me, does not mean producing huge mounds of paper; it means looking at what is the most appropriate and effective way of getting something done. However, the management of that information seems to have lacked the degree of orderliness necessary to ensure thorough consideration and careful assessment of the multiple inputs.
Open Your American Heart: From Personal Responsibility to Collective Accountability
Ms Godwin It had therefore been very difficult to check which information was the most up to date, or to check the accuracy of information. Ms Godwin commented that it was clear that some people were getting information ahead of and outside normal channels of communication.
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Ms Godwin perceived that there was a need to rebuild proper lines of communication. These ranged from limited oral reports to typed up file notes. The Committee considers that this resulted in a ready acceptance of the veracity of information circulating in the PST which was to prove not fully justified, and for which insufficient feedback and quality control mechanisms had been put in place. I have already said that that was a high-level group meeting, that anyone in that meeting who was told anything by me about an immigration matter had the right to assume that that was authoritative advice from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.
Similarly, I and other DIMA officers had a corresponding expectation that anything said to us by representatives in the high-level group was an authoritative statement from their organisation. If there were caveats about material, then we had a responsibility to reflect those caveats. If there were not—I have already said to you in relation to this particular matter that there were not—then we had the right to take the information given to us by, in this case, Defence.
You had senior officials there who were supposed to be participating in a high-level group and I think talking authoritatively I have certainly come to the awareness that the process that led to that information coming into the high-level group was flawed and that, of course, has been at the centre of much of the discussion in this committee and in other places. I think that is the lesson that others are drawing—that before that sort of statement is made in that sort of meeting, then things should be properly corroborated. It was the rapid verbal transmission of the flawed information out of the PST to the Minister for Immigration that resulted in its quick entry into the public arena, thereby triggering the controversy.
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The source of the report, AVM Alan Titheridge, who conveyed it by phone to the PST chair Ms Halton was not present to contextualise the information, or to caveat it with appropriate reference to its status, or to explain how it emerged as a result of a special arrangement which had extracted the information out of the normal chain of command. This was potentially headline-making information, and PST members would have been under no illusion about the level of public interest it would arouse.
I do not think that anyone in that meeting anticipated what was going to happen with that information. This might sound surprising to your very political ears, but I genuinely do not believe that anybody in that room thought it was a particular political issue. I think that people thought that it was regrettable, but I do not believe that it was thought of as being a political issue. Officials at this level are required to be, and indeed often pride themselves on being, very attuned to the political dimension of matters they are dealing with.
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