Ken Smith

Interviewed by
Peter Spearritt & Chris Salisbury
Apr 18 2011
Ken Smith
Time Summary Keywords
00:00:06 Ken Smith describes his university education in social work. He notes his early career in the Northern Territory, in Sydney with the NSW Department of Health and later the Housing Commission and in Tasmania. He details his arrival in Queensland in 1990 to work in the public service and his relationship with the director general at the time.
00:03:42 Ken Smith notes his early impressions of the Queensland public service before he took up a position and contextualises this with the situation in NSW and Victoria.
00:06:10 Ken Smith describes his learning curve in Queensland politics upon his arrival. He notes the decline in the way executive government was managed in NSW at this time. He notes the vitality and talent that was underpinning the reform changes post-Fitzgerald Inquiry. David Shand, Glyn Davis, Peter Coaldrake, public sector reform
00:10:32 Ken Smith notes the importance of strong links between the public service and academia that have sustained the public service. He goes on to note some of the significant influences that academics have had on shaping public policy in Queensland. academia, universities
00:13:46 Ken Smith describes his application and selection for the position of Director General of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Planning. He discusses the importance of Tom Burns' commitment to public housing reform. At this time, he notes, the states moved into home ownership products. He notes the historical shift since the Menzies Government to encourage home ownership. housing, Local Government Department, Terry Mackenroth, Tom Burns
00:17:21 Ken Smith reflects on the different ministerial styles of Tom Burns and Terry Mackenroth. He describes the influence of Tom Burns in educating him on the decentralised way Queensland operates. regions, Terry Mackenroth, Tom Burns
00:21:10 Ken Smith details his time getting to know Queensland and also his acceptance into the public service. He describes his close relationship with Glyn Davis and Peter Coaldrake. Glyn Davis, Peter Coaldrake, Terry Mackenroth, Tom Burns
00:24:16 Ken Smith details his difficult time as Director General of Local Government and Planning under Diane McCauley during the Borbidge Government. He goes on to describe a new era in the way governments handle the public sector upon gaining election. He details the contracts of chief executive officers. Borbidge Government 1996-98, Diane McCauley, Kevin Rudd
00:31:39 Ken Smith details his move away from the state public service into the private sector and then into the BCC. He details his perception of previous lord mayors, in particular Jim Soorley. He describes the implicit tension between the BCC and the state government. He notes the capability of the BCC to attract very good public servants. Brisbane City Council, Campbell Newman, Jim Soorley, Rob Carter
00:36:15 Ken Smith talks about the BCC by noting some of the important projects it completed. He notes the confusion within the community about which government delivers specific services. Brisbane City Council, Queensland Rail
00:40:58 Ken Smith describes his impression of the relationship between Peter Beattie and Jim Soorley. He notes the continuation of tensions between the BCC and the state government. Brisbane City Council, Jim Soorley, Peter Beattie
00:43:42 Ken Smith details his reappointment to Director General of the Families Department under the Beattie Government and his feelings of the response in parliament. He notes the rumours of a hit list in the previous government. And he discusses a more recent time when he was in the public spotlight when funds were denied to the Opposition for billboards. Beattie Government 1998-2007, Gerard Bradley, Hit List
00:48:08 Ken Smith describes the political process and his relationships to ministers outside his specific departments and how this changed when he became Director General of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. He notes his weekly meetings with directors general and his regular communication with ministers. He describes the regular meetings of cabinet that occur every week, and the routine of government. Cabinet, relationship with ministers
00:54:13 Ken Smith describes how he has worked with difficult directors general and the processes involved. He describes the professionalisation of the public service as a key turning point and the Queensland public service compared to other Australian states. He details the issues that sometimes arise between ministers and directors general. directors general, relationship with ministers
00:56:49 Ken Smith notes examples of problems between directors general and ministers. He notes the importance of having expertise and interest while working in a particular portfolio. He notes his own experiences of moving into different portfolios. He describes other examples of CEOs moving into different portfolios. directors general, education, relationship with ministers
01:02:34 Ken Smith discusses the maturation of the public service. He describes his time working with Education Minister Anna Bligh and the changes they encouraged in Education. Anna Bligh, education, Education Department, Indigenous issues
01:05:43 Ken Smith details his difficult experiences as director general in the Beattie Government at the time of the Forde Inquiry. He notes the large number of resources that an inquiry takes from a department. He describes the work of the Committee Monitoring the Implementation of Recommendations for the Forde Inquiry into the Abuse of Children in Institutions. He describes ongoing relationships stemming from this inquiry including forging important relationships with universities. Anna Bligh, Forde Inquiry, Ian O'Connor, Kate Holmes, Leneen Forde
01:10:13 Ken Smith makes note of the current commission of inquiry into the 2011 floods. He describes the large commitment an inquiry requires. floods 2011, Kate Holmes, Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry
01:12:22 Ken Smith describes his working relationship with Anna Bligh. He details the administrative requirements of creating a cabinet following an election. He describes his work with the Public Service Commission in reducing the number of departments from twenty-four to thirteen and the subsequent reduction in directors general. He notes the implications this creation had for the relationship between the bureaucracy and ministers. 2009 election, Anna Bligh, Cabinet, directors general, Gerard Bradley, Glyn Davis, relationship with ministers
01:18:22 Ken Smith describes his work in large departments and how they confront significant disasters such as drought. He describes the creation of water supply systems that were non-rain dependent. He also notes some of the contingency plans that were put into place in case it did not rain. drought, floods 2011, water infrastructure, water policy
01:24:57 Ken Smith discusses water policy, noting the key decision makers responsible for developing contingency plans. desalination, Peter Beattie, Ross Rolfe, water infrastructure, water policy
01:27:22 Ken Smith details how large projects are prioritised within government. He notes the specific example of public transport. He points out that large projects often require the public sector to rebuild their expertise capacity in required areas. infrastructure
01:33:36 Ken Smith describes the implementation of the Smart State strategy and the role it played in the Education Department. He outlines his involvement with the strategy, specifically his work with philanthropies, universities, the state and the commonwealth. Beattie Government 1998-2007, Chuck Feeney, Jim Soorley, universities
01:37:55 Ken Smith discusses the negotiations he took part in between philanthropies, the state and the commonwealth. He details a new collaboration that the state is trying to negotiate in the social sciences. He describes the reception that Atlantic Philanthropies received in Queensland compared to other states, which he links to the unique relationship that the state has with universities. John Howard, Peter Beattie, universities
01:42:48 Ken Smith reflects on the Smart State strategy of Beattie in light of his work with the Bligh Government. He details the importance of immigration in diversifying the Queensland economy and the influence this had on the vision of governments. He describes different Queensland regional economies that are declining and burgeoning. Beattie Government 1998-2007, Bligh Government 2007-12, education, James Cook University, Smart State, Townsville
01:48:16 Ken Smith discusses his role as Chair of Aviation Australia at the time of being Director General of Employment and Training. He notes the election promise at the time that led to this. He goes on to note the development of the land at Brisbane airport. aviation, David Gray, Peter Beattie
01:54:29 Ken Smith notes the implementation of the Smart State strategy and encouraging a diversified economy and its influence upon senior schooling and education. education reform, Smart State
02:02:19 Ken Smith details the introduction of the prep year and its relation to government policy. He notes that Queensland had to play catch-up in delivering a number of public services. Education Department, education reform
02:03:57 Ken Smith describes his working relationship with Anna Bligh and the more difficult times they have worked through. He goes on to note feelings after the Traveston Dam was denied. Anna Bligh, Peter Garrett, water infrastructure, water policy
02:08:52 Ken Smith describes his relationship with the media. media
02:10:32 Ken Smith describes the intense period of working through the 2011 flood crisis. He notes the importance of the disaster management group in dealing with the crisis. He describes the internal process of reviewing the response of government and the challenges of recovery. cyclones, Emergency Services, floods 2011
02:18:07 Ken Smith details what he believes were his best achievements, particularly in Education and Families. He notes some of his disappointments. He argues the life outcomes for people from low socio-economic backgrounds is one area that requires further attention. education
02:21:41 Interview ends.