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A think-tank and
Politics, by JONATHAN GAUL
JiXJR those at the top of the
Public Service, and also for those who arc hoping to be at the lop eventually, the most eagerly awaited portion of the Governor-General's spcecit in the Senate Cham ber next week will be Mr Gorton's blueprint for split ting I he Prime Minister's Department into two not necessarily equal organisa
This interest has its sourcc in Ihe speculation and 'debate thai have been going on in Canberra since it bccamc clear several weeks ago that the Prime Minister intended to re organise his department and bring in Mr C. L. S. Hewitt as the head of a revamped policy team under his control.
The arrangements likely to he included in Lord Casey's speech in opening the 1968 Parliamentary session next week will set out officially the new allocations of responsibil ity under the Prime Minister, arrangements that will carry with them a host of future im plications for both the Public Service, and the Federal
But they will be only the beginnings of the Prime Min ister's aims, the guidelines of his intention to create his own policy instrument. Its achieve ment will depend on those in volved in the changes, and most particularly on Mr
The basic facts of Ihe situa tion that have been made known to the public so far arc these: Mr Gorton believes (hat the growing volume of Cabinet duties which must be discharged by (lie Secretary of (he Prime Minister's Depart ment, Sir John Bunting, to gether with his departmental policy duties, comprise a work-load that is too heavy for one officer and do not leave him enough time for policy work.
Secondly, as Mr Gorton wants to expand both the sys tem of Cabinet committees and the policy role of the Prime Minister's Department, he believes that the Cabinet and policy duties should be
pUT in that way, it sounds
rather simple. But the achievement of these objcc , lives has raised some of the
most fascinating problems in politics and administration since Mr McEwcn established the Office of Secondary Indus try within his department
several years ago.
On that occasion a move to elevate the head of the Office of Secondary Industry to the same status as "second in-charge at the Treasury ! failed because of Treasury
and Public Service Board
But, this time, it is a ques tion of a Prime Minister seek ing the status of a permanent ' head for a reorganised policy machine, a much more heavy weight combination and one unlikely to be overcome by opposition from those areas of the Public Service.
The early misgivings about
Mr C. L. S. HEWITT
Sir John BUNTING
Will they hcve equal prestige?
what Mr Gorton intended to do evolved from the idea that he wanted to rcplace Sir John Bunting with "Mr "Hewitt. More recently it has been spelled out that Mr Gorton had always intended to create a new department, and that there are therefore two jobs going with permanent head status. No one seems to doubt that Mr Hewitt will be ap pointed the permanent head of the Prime Minister's De partment, and Sir John the permanent head of a Cabinet Secretariat, which will be a new Department of State.
The speculation now is about what duties these two officers will have, and just how their execution will affect the estab lished patterns of responsibil ity and influence within the Cabinet-Public Service system.
Mr Hewitt's new job ap pears to have three main ele ments: to check submissions from other departments to the Cabinet: to initiate new ideas and policies for the Prime Minister; and to continue the routine administration of existing responsibilities of the Prime Minister's Department.
The latter is the least sig nificant, although, potentially time consuming. The Prime Minister's Department retains overall responsibility for such agencies as the Security ser vices, the Public Service Board, the Audit Office and the National Library. It also looks after the Common wealth's activities in literature and art, handles the cere monial and hospitality func tions of the Government and
keeps the archives. The other parts of Mr Hewitt's duties are the important ones.
Mr Hewitt is at present Chairman of the, Australian Universities Commission (where he came into contact with the then Senator Gorton as Minister for Education and Science). But previously he had l?een a First Assistant Secretary (Budget and Ac counting) and later Deputy Secretary (Supply and Gene ral) in the Treasury.
In these jobs Mr Hewitt earned his reputation as an uncompromising administra tor. His efforts in checking and frequently shooting down the submissions of other de
partments earned him the
nickname of "Dr No".
So that in his role of check ing submissions in the "new" Prime Minister's Department, Mr Hewitt's training and ex perience have fitted him well.
TT is in the other, creative
role that the questions are being asked. Mr Hewitt's de tractors like to point out that he may have been a Dr No for too long to suddenly trans form himself into the chief of
a creative' think-tank style of policy body.
This . probably tells more about the fears of some of Mr Hewitt's senior rivals than the ability which his success ful career has demonstrated.
One of his first require ments will be to act as a mag net for talent, to attract bright young men from other areas of the Public Service to man a creative policy body. The
other requirement will be for the basic information which is the starting point of policy
In both these areas Mr
Hewitt will depend to a large extent on the co-operation of other, rival, departments. The top departments like Treasury and Trade have far more in the way of senior and over seas postings to promise the up-and-coming officer who might be tempted to move to the brighter but less certain future of Mr Hewitt's brains
Departments can also choose to be slow about providing the primary information which Mr Hewitt's group will re quire, although in the long run this sort of obstruction would rebound.
There is also the cffect of Mr Hewitt's appointment on the present patterns of influ
ence in the Public Service. The rise of Prime Minister's as a policy body could reduce the influence of the Treasury on policy, or it could just as well change the Treasury's role so that it becomes less the traditional "knocker" of
idqps and more the contribu tor to policy initiation.
The situation in the Minis try could also be interesting. There will certainly be some Ministers who will see Mr Hewitt's group as an exten sion of the Prime Minister's influence into almost every area of government, and will resent the vetting of their sub
missions. If Mr Hewitt suc ceeds, then the Prime Minister could replace the Treasurer as
the best-informed Minister in
the Cabinet room.
Sir John Bunting's new job is even less well-defined so far. He will be a permanent head under the Prime Minis ter with the same status and presumably the same access as
As head of the Cabinet Secretariat he will presumably
continue to act as secretary to the Cabinet, attending Cabinet meetings and arrang ing its agenda and business.
This is the role that pro vided the permanent head of Prime Minister's under the old arrangements with, most of his prestige and influence. He was the only public servant who knew the factors influencing the decisions of the Cabinet on all subjects and the one who communicated the deci sions back to the administer ing departments.
The question now is whether Sir John and Mr Hewitt are to share these prestigious functions in any way. Will Mr Hewitt and Sir John both attend Cabinet? And will this arrangement re duce Sir John's position to that of a less important, though still influential, re corder of Cabinet decisions?
These are the key questions
ClR. John's new Department
of the Cabinet Secretariat will be miniature in numbers by comparison with many others, but it may be very large in its influence.
One suggestion that has been canvassed is that he is seeking authority to second competent men from various
sectors of the Public Service to work on special projects. If this is so, he could be out ' Hewitting Mr Hewitt.
Mr Gorton appears to have won his way in bringing Mr Hewitt in. Only time will tell how effective the reorganisa tion will be in providing him with new ideas and indepen dent judgments.
In the context of these
changes, it is relevant to re call what Mr Gorton said in a recent interview about his view of the office of Prime Minister:
"The Prime Minister now or in the future is not to be chairman of the committee so that a majority vote in the committee says what's going to be done. He should put to the Cabinet or the com
mittee what he believes ought to be done, and if he believes strongly enough that it ought to be done, then it must be done".
In splitting up the Prime Minister's Department Mr Gorton is aiming at setting up an organisation of his own to help decide what ought to be