Peter Ellis

Interviewed by
Roger Scott, Ann Scott & Chris Salisbury
Jun 08 2011
Peter Ellis
Time Summary Keywords
00:00:13 Peter Ellis details his life before he joined the public service, going to Brisbane High and receiving a scholarship to study geology at the University of Queensland. He notes the feelings of his mother toward the Gair Government. He recalls asking his father how he should vote. He notes his father's perception of the public service at the time. He notes his pleasure at studying geology at university.
00:03:58 Peter Ellis discusses his early career in the geological survey of Queensland and the shift in attitudes in the 1960s when environmental issues emerged. He describes his work as a technical advisor to Arnold Bennett in the Royal Commission into oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. After completion of this work, he notes a turning point in his career when he became director of environmental control. Environment, Great Barrier Reef, Mines, Energy and Northern Development, oil
00:06:05 Peter Ellis notes his move to join the Coordinator General Charles Barton, who became a key mentor for him, in environmental control. He discusses that his first job in environmental control was to look at noise legislation. He discusses the influence meetings with Barton had on his approach to public service meetings in his later career.  Charles Barton, Coordinator General, Environment, pollution
00:09:53 Peter Ellis discusses the expansion of his job to include planning and environment at a time of rapid development in Queensland. He notes the many development projects he was involved with including the Bowen Basin, Mourilyan sugar port and Weipa. He notes the technical expertise of his department and the lack of interference in it by politicians. He describes, what is to him, the important local functions of state governments. development, Sydney Schubert
00:13:43 Peter Ellis discusses the transitions he has witnessed in Queensland government, from Gair to Nicklin. He discusses ministerial offices, the old Westminster system and how departments were set up before the 1980s. Charles Barton, Nicklin Government 1957-68, Vincent Gair, Westminster system
00:17:46 Peter Ellis details Charles Barton's and his own invovlement in the Iwasaki Project. He notes how they pursued a franchise agreement with Iwasaki. Charles Barton, coal, Iwasaki Project
00:20:34 Peter Ellis discusses the history of the Coordinator General's role and the capital works program. He notes the changes to annual expenditure for these programs. He notes how these projects were flexible regarding such issues as natural disasters. Coordinator General, water infrastructure
00:24:07 Peter Ellis notes that in 1986 his perceptions of government changed. He describes the preparations for the 1987 Premiers' conference where it was set to discuss the overlap between state and federal issues. He describes the coming of the Ahern Government and Ahern's style of listening to advisors, which was in contrast to Bjelke-Petersen's style of having key public service advisors. Ahern Government 1987-89, Bob Hawke, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Leo Hielscher, Sydney Schubert, Wendy Armstrong
00:29:10 Peter Ellis describes the Ahern Government and some of the major reports that brought changes. He notes the short-term feelings within the Premier's Department at the time, but he notes that there was a feeling that the public service was ready for change. Ahern Government 1987-89, Cabinet, Premier's Department
00:33:12 Peter Ellis discusses his time as head of environmental control and the pressure of environmental groups upon the government. He discusses one of the early processes implemented to understand the environmental impacts of development projects. He discusses the broader problem for all governments on how to measure environmental impacts at the time.  development, Environment
00:39:28 Peter Ellis details his move from environmental control into the Premier's Department. He describes the challenge of combining the Premier's Department with the Coordinator General's Department. He discusses his role as responsible for inter-governmental relations. He discusses his attendance at ministerial councils. Bob Hawke, Coordinator General, Premier's Department
00:45:25 Peter Ellis describes his move away from the Premier's Department to head Industry Development. He notes some of the companies that were attracted to Queensland at the time. He discusses the reviews of departments during the Goss Government, particularly the review of his department. Industry Development, Peter Coaldrake, Public Sector Management Commission
00:49:52 Peter Ellis describes his move to Executive Chairman of the Queensland Coal Board. He notes his earlier work on the Savage Committee. He goes on to note the review of the coal board and the abolition of the coal board. He discusses Wayne Goss's coming to power and the perceptions of the public service by senior ministers at the time. He notes his own personal feelings from within the public service at this time of change. coal, Goss Government 1989-96, Queensland Coal Board, Savage Commission of Inquiry, Wayne Goss
00:54:30 Peter Ellis states his despair at the lack of recognition of the hard and boring work that often needs doing in government. He goes on to discuss the Goss Government, both problems in policy creation and its achievements. Goss Government 1989-96
00:58:19 Peter Ellis describes the problem he had with many of the younger staff that were appointed to senior positions in the Goss Government. He felt that they lost contact with the ministers because of the strict regulations put in place. Goss Government 1989-96, Iwasaki Project, relationship with ministers
01:04:05 Peter Ellis discusses his time out of the public service between 1993-96. He notes the appointment of Rob Borbidge to Minister of Industry Development by Ahern. He discusses the issues of trust between the public service and the Goss Government.  Ahern Government 1987-89, Goss Government 1989-96, Industry Development, Rob Borbidge
01:07:31 Peter Ellis discusses the situation within the public service during the Borbidge Government. He makes note of the difficulties of decentralisation within Queensland. Borbidge Government 1996-98
01:08:57 Peter Ellis discusses his return to the public service in 1996. He notes the Mundingburra by-election and his appointment as acting Director General of Premier's. He also discusses the different contractual arrangements for senior public servants in the Goss, Borbidge and Beattie governments. Borbidge Government 1996-98, Glyn Davis, Mundingburra by-election 1996
01:12:08 Peter Ellis discusses his relationship with Rob Borbidge leading up to his appointment as Coordinator General. He describes, the Borbidge State Strategic Plan and how his work in Premier's was to develop this. He notes the challenges of the early months in the Borbidge Government with leaked cabinet submissions and how he combated this. Borbidge Government 1996-98, Coordinator General, Courier mail, Rob Borbidge
01:16:33 Peter Ellis discusses his time as Coordinator General by noting the reactions of the various departments. He describes the inter-departmental approach to combating youth suicide. He notes the changes Glyn Davis made to the State Strategic Plan with the Beattie Government. Coordinator General, Glyn Davis
01:20:03 Peter Ellis discusses the contribution he made by encouraging the CEO's forum to create discussion between departments.
01:21:15 Peter Ellis discusses abolishing the Office of Cabinet and the changes to the upper levels of the public service with the Borbidge Government. He notes the approachable style of Rob Borbidge that encouraged ministers and department heads. Borbidge Government 1996-98, Cabinet Office, Rob Borbidge
01:29:26 Peter Ellis discusses the early days of the Borbidge Government and the process of appointing positions in the senior public service. He also discusses the length of contracts for senior public servants appointed during the Borbidge Government. He notes that many appointments were carried across from the previous government. He also notes what might have happened if Borbidge had a second term. Borbidge Government 1996-98, Peter Beattie
01:34:30 Peter Ellis discusses his experience of the difficult times surrounding the Queensland Police Union and the Memorandum of Understanding controversy. He goes on to note the relationship between the Borbidge Government, the public service and the media. Courier mail, media, Memorandum of Understanding, police union
01:38:40 Peter Ellis describes the influence of One Nation at the bureaucratic level. One Nation
01:40:11 Peter Ellis discusses the State Strategic Plan and the influence this had on the Smart State strategy. He notes his dismay at the short term outlook of many politicians. He states that ninety percent of work in the public service is to provide the basic services to the state. He notes that the investment into research goes back to the post-war reconstruction of Queensland. He also discusses the decentralised nature of Queensland and its history of gaining revenue. Smart State
01:46:15 Peter Ellis discusses the future of Queensland. He goes on to note the shift in population to the south east and also migration to Queensland. Smart State
01:48:37 Peter Ellis reflects on his career by noting the high and low points. He notes the collective meetings of the CEOs of government as an achievement. Doug McTaggart
01:53:37 Interview ends.