The Australia and New Zealand School of Government, to open at the
University of Melbourne, demonstrates the commitment of Australia's
political and academic leaders to improving the quality of public policy
and public debate.
One of the criticisms that has been raised is that the school,
established by a consortium of governments and universities, risks
becoming like the leading French public policy school, the Ecole
Nationale d'Administration, which has become a virtual prerequisite
for success in French public life.
Whatever the merits of the ENA for France, it is clear that training
elite technocrats is the wrong model for Australia. Indeed, in the
egalitarian traditions of Australia and New Zealand, ANZSOG should serve
to open up public service. The notion of the lifelong bureaucrat is
rapidly declining, as young people increasingly opt for careers that allow
them to move between business, community organisations and the public
Not only is this process unstoppable, but it benefits all sectors.
More people in business and the community sector today understand how
government works, and government has become increasingly responsive and
accountable to those outside.
A business leader who has served as a diplomat is more likely to
encourage her company to sell its products overseas. A bureaucrat who once
started his own company is more likely to understand what government can
do to foster innovation. A community activist who has spent time as a
state public servant knows how to press for reform. All three make for a
healthier, more robust democracy.
To foster mobility and encourage cross-disciplinary learning, the best
models for ANZSOG are the innovative graduate programs in public policy
offered in some leading US universities. During the past 20 years, top
public-policy schools, such as Harvard's Kennedy
School of Government, have rapidly expanded - just as business schools
did in an earlier era.
A typical one or two-year masters degree at the Kennedy School has
three core elements: policy analysis, public sector management and
leadership. Around this, courses are offered in policy areas from health
policy to urban politics; from defence to international development.
Students are encouraged to develop broad skills, but also to combine them
with a deep understanding of a particular set of issues.
The faculty of these US policy schools is not made up of traditional
academics alone. Professors with expertise in economics and political
science have their offices next to other faculty members who have worked
as politicians, bureaucrats, in business, or as community activists.
The student body is equally diverse. This year, for example, the
Kennedy School draws students from 70 countries.
The Kennedy School provides learning in traditional and
not-so-traditional ways. During the past few months it has hosted
seminars, forums, and speeches featuring people as diverse as Noam
Chomsky, Barbara Bush, Mary Robinson and Pervez Musharraf. Recently, newly
elected representatives to the US Congress attended the school for three
days of policy discussions with academics.
In the same way, ANZSOG will aim to become a centre for public policy
excellence in the Asia-Pacific, offering ideas for federal, state and
local politicians, and training students for public service, broadly
defined. It should draw on the best talent teaching in our universities
and provide an opportunity for students to learn from retired politicians,
senior journalists, union leaders and retired chief executive officers. It
should excel academically, but never lose touch with the real world.
Most important, we believe, is to foster the notion that public service
is a noble calling. In the past 25 years, the fraction of Australians who
think that their politicians are ethical and honest has halved, with young
people the most distrusting. One of ANZSOG's aims ought to be to encourage
young people to consider careers that contribute to public life. By
providing fresh policy ideas and training future public sector leaders, we
hope that it will help achieve that goal.