Wild Dogs, Opera Houses and Empire Building

Every first term government in its first weeks and months wants to “do more with less” to the size of government.

In recent years, with the infiltration of the Management Mechanics, it usually starts out as, say, half a dozen Mega-Ministries and 8 or 9 Super-Dooper-Departments.

Well, the O’Farrell Government hasn’t let NSW down. Here’s the structure of the Government:

NSW Super Departments

With its straight up and down pillars, it’s no Noodle Nation. More like Blues Point Bureaucracy.

In some places, such as in Transport, Health, Family and Community Services, it reflects what has long been the established state of affairs.

This model is a narrowly focussed administrative structure with a principal department, and statutory or budgetary responsibility for a small number of autonomous or independent bodies, such as oversight agencies.

Others, like the Premier’s Department, now reflect the new responsibilities conferred after the election. It’s a super department, alright, with the Premier’s Department incorporating the Planning Department, the Office of Environment and Heritage and a Local Government Division. This means the Department also covers a wide range of bodies from the Audit Office to the Lord Howe Island Board, from ICAC  to the Parramatta Park Trust.

Treasury and the new Department for Finance & Services make an interesting mix. Treasury loses over half of its pre-election responsibilities to a mega Department that is matched only by the Premiers Department for having a foot in every door across the Government. It’s also represented sitting above Treasury in the departmental structure.

It’s the last few departments that are particularly interesting. There is a Department of Attorney General & Justice, which includes the Ministry for Police and Emergency Service, and has the Police Force and the DPP treated as commensurate with the Guardianship Tribunal and the Privacy Commissioner. It also effectively puts the Minister for Police and Emergency Service within the bailiwick of the Attorney General and Minister for Justice. Given the personalities there, that will  be fascinating to watch.

Then there’s the Education & Communities Department, which has the usual education responsibilities, but with an Office of Communities. This contains the range of portfolios held by the junior Ministers, described here. So one office containing two Ministers in a super department. It also has the charming conjunction of responsibilities in the Combat Sports Authority of NSW and the Children’s Guardian.

However, the Super Department with a maze of responsibilities that would make a dog’s breakfast seem like a Michelin one star plated dish is something called the Department of Trade & Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services. It’s got just about everything you could want in life: Food, Forests, Water, Liquor, Small Business, Regional Development, State Development, Lands, Arts and Aquatic Reserves. But it’s when you get to the Other Bodies that the Pollack of Public Administration comes to life.

The Department is, among other things, responsible for: the Wild Dog Destruction Board and the Sydney Opera House; the Cobar Water Board and the Art Gallery of NSW; the State Library and the Livestock Health and Pests Authorities.

Students of the rise and fall of empires know that, almost inevitably, they are brought down by imperial over stretch. Looks like there’s a new case study in the offing.

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