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Is there a structural problem of support as MrDak hits issues of maybe frustration??

s the public servant, who I have seen “bail out” #casa, #atsb and #airservices starting to crack?

At numerous senate estimates hearings, MrDak has defended the indefensible with #casa in particular being the beneficiary. When McCormick was in the CEO role, a lot of the happenings were in front of the senators and batted away by the ultimate Sir Appleby.

Perhaps it is time for MrDak to go.

Attached are the two articles, see what you think.

Infrastructure boss Mike Mrdak lashes Prime Minister and Cabinet and prime ministers’ offices

Tom McIlroy

  • Tom McIlroy

The boss of the Department of Infrastructure has delivered a blunt assessment of some of Canberra’s most powerful public servants and political staffers, calling out central agencies as dollar-driven policy killers.

In a speech to the Institute of Public Administration in Canberra this week, Mike Mrdak said sending reform proposals to Parliament House or the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet early was a sure way to have good policy ideas killed off, arguing line agencies were better placed to deliver development through constructive relationships and cooperation

Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development boss Mike Mrdak

Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development boss Mike Mrdak Photo: Supplied

The comments have echoed through Canberra’s public service circles, leaving some surprised by the at times undiplomatic tone.

A former PM&C deputy secretary and Commonwealth coordinator-general, Mr Mrdak said more long-term planning and evidence-based decision making was needed to overcome the short focus of governments.

He said “forward-leaning steps” were often needed on infrastructure planning, including sometimes ahead of public opinion.

Mr Mrdak warned reform proposals born in central agencies or prime ministers’ offices often did not serve the public or the states and territories well.

“If you want to see a reform agenda killed early, hand it over to the PMO, PM&C or premier’s departments, and you’ll not see it ever come to fruition,” he said to laugher from the room.

“The only way that you get long-term change and reform is when it’s driven by line agencies and the coordination is done at the centre, but the hard work is done in the line area.

Citing heightened discussion about the Australian constitution during Parliament’s citizenship fiasco, Mr Mrdak said fast electoral cycles and limited political agendas hampered good processes and the public service needed to provide a buffer.

“Electoral cycles are very short, the focus of government tends to be very short.

“We are the continuity and the people who have to understand what the future needs are to provide that long-term advice to government. We must have a view on the right outcome.

“Often governments don’t want to hear our view – and a view is not an opinion. I have lots of opinions, they’re not worth a lot, but my agency and my portfolio has a view about the right outcome for the future. It’s informed by evidence, it’s informed by good long-term research and it is all about what is the right outcome for the challenges facing the country.”

He used the speech to call for line agencies to lead engagement with state governments and experts, because the approach of central agencies including PM&C and Treasury did not facilitate agreement on policy solutions.

“It too quickly moves away from identifying the need for reform and valuing the state contribution, into a discussion around dollars. When you get to the dollars, it is often combative and not cooperative.

“That’s why we need to do much better in how we manage our reform agenda across the public service, both federally and with the states.”

“That’s why line agencies must have a view, because only they have the relationships that make this work,” he said.

And in this morning’s Australian:

 ‘Economic reform a hopeless cause’
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development secretary Mike Mrdak

One of the nation’s most senior public servants has made an ­extraordinary outburst lamenting the inability of state and federal governments to deliver on economic reform, claiming the current public appetite for change is the worst he has seen in three decades in public life.

“I have not known a time in my 30-odd years in public policy when the authority of government, both at the federal and state level, to even raise a reform agenda is so cynically attacked,’’ Michael Mrdak, secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, said, adding that the current environment had made any discussion of reform almost impossible.

He told a forum convened by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia that such an environment made it “very hard as a nation to take hard decisions on the way forward’’.

A day later, in a speech to the Institute of Public Administration in Canberra, the former PM&C deputy secretary and commonwealth co-ordinator-general also criticised the centralisation of decision-making at the state and federal level. “If you want to see a reform agenda killed early, hand it over to the PMO, PM&C or premiers’ departments, and you’ll not see it ever come to fruition,’’ he said, noting it was the responsibility of the bureaucracy to focus on long-term planning and evidence-based decision-making to overcome the short focus of governments.

His comments echo those of Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe, who recently lamented the lack of economic reform in areas including tax, competition, education and the provision and pricing of infrastructure.

Business leaders have also questioned the federal government’s decision to abandon meaningful reform of the tax system after its company tax cuts for big corporations were opposed by Labor and the minor parties.

Mr Mrdak was commenting specifically at the IPA forum on the issue of road funding and whether fuel excise and registration fees should be scrapped and replaced with a system that charges drivers for how much they use the roads.

Transurban, the Australian Automobile Association and the IPA have been pushing road-user pricing as an alternative to the current system of funding new highways with petrol excise.

Dynamic road pricing has been implemented in some of the world’s major cities to ease congestion and improve the efficiency of road networks.

“The people will not get the information they need on an issue as complex as this through a tabloid headline or talkback radio,’’ Mr Mrdak said, before criticising the way “the tabloids’’ consistently portrayed discussions around tolls and road pricing as simply “new taxes’’.

The federal government has committed to hold an independent inquiry on the potential benefits and impacts of road market reform as an opportunity to build consensus within governments, industry and the community.

Mr Mrdak said the debate on road pricing was finally heading in the right direction after too often being “put in the hard basket’’. “This is no longer a theoretical concept, there is practical work happening across the country to provide the baseline information. Things are changing … this is a reform that can have great social and economic benefit,’’ he said.

“We need to recognise for the community that the way we are operating is unsustainable.’’

He applauded Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher, who has announced the government will investigate moves towards road-user pricing to manage congestion. He said Mr Fletcher had been prepared to argue to his colleagues that this micro-economic reform needed to be progressed.

At the same forum, Adrian Dwyer, executive director of policy and research at the federal government’s infrastructure advisory body, Infrastructure Australia, urged the government to introduce a road-pricing mechanism on electric cars before their uptake increased.

Stressing his comments did not represent official IA policy, he said the move was not about imposing a new tax on electric vehicles. Rather it was about moving to a fairer and more sustainable system of funding.

Retiring Infrastructure Australia chairman Mark Birrell echoed Mr Dwyer’s concerns about electric cars, telling the forum “the owner of a Tesla electric car pays no fuel excise at all, yet he or she shares the road with motorists paying hundreds of dollars a year in a tax that is meant to fund road maintenance’’.

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