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Rudd tones down public servant blast -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, has moderated his tone toward federal public servants
this morning after yesterday warning them that if they thought the workload was tough now, there'd
be more.

This morning he praised bureaucrats for their work with the Government but there is still the
question over the embarrassing leaks from at least four federal departments.

And today one Canberra insider is warning that that period of grace for department heads whom the
Prime Minster promised not to sack when he took office, may be coming to an end.

David Mark has our report.

DAVID MARK: Just six months into a new administration, the public service is leaking and the staff
are kicking up a stink over their long working hours. It was a seemingly angry Prime Minister who
fronted the media yesterday with a pointed message for public servants.

KEVIN RUDD: Some public servants are finding the hours a bit much. Well I suppose I've simply got
news for the public service; there will be more.

DAVID MARK: Those comments infuriated public servants who rang into ABC Radio in Canberra today.

TALKBACK CALLER: I was angry. We all know that he is a very hard-working man. We know that he
starts at 5:15 in the morning and has his ministers there and he is expecting a lot of the
departments already to be on board, you know, at ridiculous hours of the day. But fair go, if you
are on board early in the day, don't expect them to be there late at night too.

DAVID MARK: How hard are public servants working?

Professor John Wanna is the chair of the Australian New Zealand School of Government at the
Australian National University.

JOHN WANNA: Well, you are hearing people being called in at weekends. You're hearing people going
early to work just to cope with the workload. The amount of email traffic, the amount of briefings,
consultations, the amount of background work they're expected to do and going down into lower
levels of the public service.

So, not just the executives who you might expect to be bearing heavy hourly workload but also down
into the middle levels of the public service, that's where the complaints are coming from.

DAVID MARK: He has a warning for the government.

JOHN WANNA: I think there is a danger in getting them offside by unnecessarily sort of niggling and
needling them around workloads and whatever. I think there has got to be a better balance between
the expectations of what we can get from the public service and their expectations of being treated
professionally and having a work/life balance et cetera.

DAVID MARK: Today on AM the Prime Minister moderated his language.

KEVIN RUDD: Well, the first thing I would say about the public service is that we have been
exceptionally well-serviced. In the six months that we have been in government through the advice
that we have been receiving across a whole range of policy areas.

DAVID MARK: He later added:

KEVIN RUDD: It's tough. It's hard but I believe that the Australian community at large expect all
of us to work really hard and the public service, I've got to say, have been responding very well
to that.

DAVID MARK: Rob Chalmers is the editor of the Inside Canberra Newsletter and the longest-serving
member of the press gallery in Canberra.

ROB CHALMERS: He is getting the message that his rather stern remarks yesterday weren't too well
received by the troops.

DAVID MARK: Were those remarks a mistake then or may they have been a deliberate veiled threat?

ROB CHALMERS: Well, I've got a strange view about this because government is suspicious of certain
senior public servants who were appointed by the Howard government.

DAVID MARK: When the Howard Government was elected in 1996 it purged the public service. Many of
the senior departmental heads were rolled. Kevin Rudd promised there would be no so-called "Night
of the Long Knives".

Professor John Wanna:

JOHN WANNA: Well, Labor has been committed for a number of years now to not having a "Night of the
Long Knives" and working with the public service, particularly the public service leadership that
they inherit. That was in their Transition to Government document and has been a strong element of
Labor policy for some years.

I think there was a consensus that the "Night of the Long Knives" in '96 destabilised the public
service for a year or 18 months and it was difficult to get over.

So I think they have taken a view that they will work with existing public service and there will
be a transition over a longer period of time. It may be six months, it may be 12 months or 18
months but ministers will try to work with their secretaries.

DAVID MARK: You mentioned earlier that the public service was given a period of grace by the new
government. Is it likely that there may be some senior public servants who will have to go simply
because they can't work with their Minister?

JOHN WANNA: That is likely. The period of grace I understand it is around six to eight months. It
is not written down. It is an assumption. It is a working rule that the government is working with.
What that enables is ministers to have some time to establish a working relationship with their
head of department and head of department to work to their new Minister.

Many heads of department didn't know which minister they were going to get. There was a
considerable amount of reshuffling of the shadow bench into the new Cabinet positions so they're
having to get used to people they may not know, people they may not have contemplated being in that
ministry or position, and the Minister and the Minister's office is having to deal with them and
their senior executives.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Professor John Wanna from the Australian National University ending that
report by David Mark.