Truth in government and the politicisation of public service advice

20 Mar 2007

Recent controversies, eg over intelligence in Iraq, have raised problems about the politicisation of official advice, particularly the supposedly factual or objective elements of advice. Objectivity is a contested value and the lines are often hard to draw between bare fact, spin and misrepresentation. Public servants are held to higher standards of objectivity than politicians, a fact on which politicians trade when they seek to attribute assessments of evidence to their officials. The growing openness of government documentation is placing pressure on departmental officials who wish to be both loyal to their political masters and honest in their factual assessments. These issues are discussed with reference to recent Australian experience (and also with reference to the UK Hutton inquiry).

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