The release ear­lier this week of the draft report of the Gov­ern­ment 2.0 Task­force has the poten­tial to be a water­shed moment in the man­age­ment and deliv­ery of gov­ern­ment and its ser­vices to the peo­ple of Australia.

I find it more than a lit­tle inter­est­ing that after not much more than pass­ing inter­est in the Taskforce’s work from any­thing except the Aus­tralian tech­nol­ogy media, the main­stream media has now picked up the story and seems fas­ci­nated. It’s also more than a touch humor­ous that the report from Australia’s lead­ing finan­cial news­pa­per, the Aus­tralian Finan­cial Review, had to be copy-​​pasted into a post at the Task­force blog because of the AFR’s ridicu­lous and reader-​​unfriendly paywall.

Oth­ers, both in the pub­lic sec­tor and exter­nal to it have voiced the view that the report is well writ­ten, addresses all the right issues and sug­gests a num­ber of well-​​considered approaches to the prob­lems of reform­ing gov­ern­ment and the work it does. I couldn’t agree more. While there are the odd overly bureau­cratic turn of phrase or sug­ges­tion in the report, they are for­give­able. This is after all, a report for gov­ern­ment about gov­ern­ment busi­ness — it must speak to its tar­get in lan­guage it under­stands and is com­fort­able with. How else can encour­age­ment of needed change occur if not in the lan­guage of those you seek to change?

I’ve engaged sev­eral times with mem­bers of the Task­force and at event they’ve run as a part of their work. I’ve been more than impressed over­all with the way the major­ity of the mem­bers have gone about their busi­ness and par­tic­u­larly in the way they have sought to walk the talk on the types of prac­tices, behav­iors and busi­ness they are work­ing on.

But as of Decem­ber 31, every­thing changes. The Task­force dis­ap­pears and in some way, shape or form, the work of the Task­force becomes busi­ness as usual in some part of the byzan­tine machine that is the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. All that enthu­si­asm, inter­est, and mod­el­ing of the way things could and should be poten­tially goes dead in the water on 1 January.

I think this is an incred­i­ble risk. If the momen­tum that has been cre­ated becomes a part of some busy (albeit prob­a­bly enthu­si­as­tic) bureaucrat’s work, handed to them to man­age in addi­tion to the moun­tain of work they already have, what hap­pens? Does the work con­tinue? Who remains to prod and poke, gen­er­at­ing action, when peo­ple like Nicholas Gruen, who has been an out­spo­ken agi­ta­tor through­out the life­time of the Task­force, are no longer there?

With­out a deter­mined agi­ta­tor and with­out rapid and deci­sive action on the part of the gov­ern­ment, any out­comes from the Taskforce’s report risk being imple­mented by com­mit­tee in some yet to be deter­mined time frame. We risk end­ing up with a camel rather than the sleek, agile quar­ter­horse we have should the report be actioned in the way it recommends.

Should that hap­pen, the great­est risk becomes inac­tion and apa­thy. If that occurs it will be a ter­ri­ble waste and a great shame. I hope it is very much not the case.

What remains to be seen, and will undoubt­edly be the most com­plex hur­dle for all of this will be the hobby horse I’ve been rid­ing through­out this jour­ney — cul­tural change. With­out a will­ing­ness to and action on cul­tural change in the pub­lic sec­tor and at the leg­isla­tive level, many of the rec­om­men­da­tions will come to naught. With­out explicit and pow­er­ful sup­port from above (all the way to the Prime Min­is­ter) and all through APS man­age­ment from Sec­re­taries and agency heads down to EL1s (and equiv­a­lent), and the nec­es­sary sup­port and edu­ca­tion through­out the ranks, change will be ter­ri­bly hard.

Even with the changes to the APSC guid­ance on pub­lic ser­vant involve­ment online, FOI reform, and the drop­ping of con­trol and fil­ter­ing I am begin­ning to hear about, all of these things and the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Task­force will be incred­i­bly hard to make hap­pen with­out the cul­tural change, sup­port and edu­ca­tion that will lead to good exe­cu­tion of the rec­om­men­da­tions and the atten­dant pol­icy and prac­tice reform.

I believe the will­ing­ness and capac­ity to make this all hap­pen in the best pos­si­ble way is there, I just hope that it all doesn’t get swal­lowed up by bureau­cracy and peo­ple so busy they can’t make things hap­pen. Mak­ing sure this is the case will be the hard­est thing the gov­ern­ment and pub­lic sec­tor has to do on 1 January.