Brian Head

Interviewed by
Roger Scott & Peter Spearritt
Dec 07 2009
Brian Head
Time Summary Keywords
00:00:17 Brian Head recounts his early history, including his birth in Fiji, his early education at state schools in rural and urban Victoria, and his high-school education at Scotch College in Melbourne. He summarises his undergraduate and graduate degrees in politics at Monash University and his PhD at the University of London, and discusses his early academic positions in Melbourne, at Murdoch University in Perth, and then at Griffith University. Fiji, Griffith University
00:01:56 Brian Head recalls his arrival in Brisbane in 1982, and the concern with the apparently unassailable Bjelke-Petersen regime. He briefly discusses the eventual downfall of the Bjelke-Petersen Government, and the election of the Goss Government on a reform platform. He discusses his position as the first head of policy in the Premier's Department in 1990, and discusses the selection process in the context of the post Bjelke-Petersen merit-based appointment system. He also mentions the gulag to which many senior Bjelke-Petersen public servants were sent by the Goss Government. 1989 election, Bjelke-Petersen Government 1968-87, Commonwealth Games 1982, Erik Finger, Glyn Davis, Goss Government 1989-96, Gulag, merit based selection, Mike Ahern, Premier's Department, Public Sector Management Commission
00:05:41 Brian Head discusses the public service gulag, and what he calls the political brutality of the early Goss years.  He describes the policy limbo which he faced at the Premier's Department, noting that the new government did not trust the existing public servants, and discusses the reshaping of the section under Kevin Rudd in 1991. Beattie Government 1998-2007, Cabinet Office, Goss Government 1989-96, Gulag, Kevin Rudd, Premier's Department
00:09:22 Brian Head discusses his job in the Queensland Premier's Department in the context of the changes wrought by Prime Minister Bob Hawke's new federalism, as well as his position as Cabinet Secretary and the reshaping of the Cabinet Office. Bob Hawke, Bob Smith, Cabinet Office, Cabinet Secretariat, COAG, Erik Finger, federalism, Gary Sturgess, Kevin Rudd, Nick Greiner, Premier's Department
00:12:24 Brian Head describes his reluctant decision to leave the Cabinet Office to head up the Public Sector Management Commission in 1994 and the work of the commission, including strategic human relations and industrial relations. Beattie Government 1998-2007, Bob Marshman, Cabinet Office, Goss Government 1989-96, Industrial Relations, Peter Coaldrake, Public Sector Management Commission, unions
00:16:20 Brian Head discusses his work at the PSMC in the context of the public service's discontent with constant restructuring, and their disquiet with the failing Goss Government in late 1995. He comments that while the Goss Government was an excellent reformer, it was seen as less effective in day-to-day service delivery. Courier mail, Fitzgerald Inquiry, Goss Government 1989-96, human services, Public Sector Management Commission, Tom Burns, Wayne Goss
00:21:08 Brian Head discusses the decline in the Goss Government's popularity and loss of votes in 1995 in terms of its technocratic approach and its inability to respond to public opinion. He talks about his desire to change the aims and reputation of the Public Sector Management Commission. Gold Coast, Gold Coast Motorway, koala habitat, Mundingburra by-election 1996, Public Sector Management Commission, Springwood
00:23:13 Brian Head discusses the public service in the dying days of the Goss Government, and the disruption and restructuring wrought by the incoming Borbidge Government in 1996. Borbidge Government 1996-98, Goss Government 1989-96
00:25:10 Brian Head discusses the sacking, redeployment and kitchen leave of senior public servants at the start of the Borbidge Government. He notes that because he could not be sacked, he was re-deployed to the Department of Main Roads at a lower pay level in 1996. He discusses Borbidge's re-appointment of many Bjelke-Petersen era public servants, and the public discontent with these actions. Beattie Government 1998-2007, Borbidge Government 1996-98, Gulag, Kevin Wolfe, Main Roads, Mineral Resources, Public Sector Management Commission
00:29:15 Brian Head describes being made the Public Service Commissioner in the new Beattie Government in 1998, and negotiating the employment of a number of CEOs under the changed (and perhaps weakened) definitions of merit based employment. Beattie Government 1998-2007, merit based selection, Public Sector Management Commission, Public Service Commissioner
00:32:40 Brian Head contrasts the Beattie Government with the Goss Government in terms of their impact on the public service. He states that while the Goss Government carried out large-scale, modernising reforms, the Beattie Government made much smaller scale, mainly political changes. He discusses his position as Public Service Commissioner in the Beattie Government, including the conflict with the Premier which eventually lead to his redeployment to the Environment Department in 2000. Beattie Government 1998-2007, Crime and Misconduct Commission, Environment and Heritage, Goss Government 1989-96, Peter Beattie, Public Service Commissioner
00:35:54 Brian Head comments on his years in the public service, reflecting that he counts his own learning curve and the establishment of Premiers Conferences (which became COAG) as two of his greatest achievements. He discusses his work with leadership programs in the public service, particularly given the resistance to these initiatives. He remarks on the influence that working in a variety of postings in government has had on his own research into good governance since he left the public service in 2003. COAG, Goss Government 1989-96
00:40:05 Brian Head discusses the disappointments of his career, dwelling on the endings of things, particularly the decline of the Goss Government from 1995, and his move from the Office of the Public Service Commissioner in 2000. Goss Government 1989-96, Public Service Commissioner
00:42:09 Brian Head describes his life after leaving the public service in 2003, including applying for a range of jobs before accepting a research chair at Griffith University,  the challenge of re-establishing himself as a senior academic after having been in the public service for 13 years, and his subsequent move to the University of Queensland. Griffith University, University of Queensland
00:45:02 Brian Head describes the hostility towards him when he joined the public service and his frustration when the suitability of his appointment was discussed in parliament and other public fora. He discusses the renewed scrutiny that accompanied his direct appointment to the Office of Public Service Commissioner in 1998. Public Service Commissioner
00:49:16 Interview ends