In Brief | Summer Reading 2019


The following resources are newly published items on public sector issues that may make for interesting reading over the summer break.

Feedback welcome here!  



In September 2019, IPAA hosted its National Conference Crossroads: Future Directions in Darwin. The Conference explored the theme of doing more with less and looked at potential solutions. There was a focus on innovation as key to improving efficiency, how effective change can be made and the skills needed to deliver it. Watch Alexander Lau's keynote address to the Conference on recent successes in innovating service delivery in the Singapore Public Service at this link. Mr Lau is the Principal Design Lead with the Singapore Government’s Innovation Lab. The work of the Lab is discussed further on Apolitical, a global peer to peer government platform.

To coincide with the conference, Wiley has made available an Australian Journal of Public Administration (AJPA) themed virtual issue, the fifth in a series to have accompanied national conferences. This issue is freely available and includes some key articles from the journal’s back catalogue such as:


The Sam Richardson Award  is given each year by IPAA for the most influential article published in the AJPA. The subjects they cover give a good sense of how IPAA’s professional journal is engaging with some of the big challenges facing public administration. Dr Christopher Pepin-Neff and Ms Kristin Caporale won the 2019 award for their paper Funny Evidence: Female Comics are the New Policy Entrepreneurs, arguing that female comics can serve as policy entrepreneurs in public administration by using their identity to locate themselves as relevant actors, attaching solutions to problems, biasing political outcomes, benefiting from their engagement, and introducing narratives that change the emotional habitus of an audience and influence the broader public.

The Sam Richardson Awards are presented by IPAA each year to recognise the contribution made by researchers to the study and practice of public administration in Australia. They are named after Professor Sam Richardson AO CBE, who was a foundational principal of the Canberra College of Advanced Education, now the University of Canberra. A full list of winners of the Sam Richardson Award is available here.


The 2019 Federal Election produced a surprise result and, perhaps as a consequence, there have been some compelling analyses of the politics before and after the election. Erik Jensen's Quarterly Essay The Prosperity Gospel: How Scott Morrison Won and Bill Shorten Lost focuses on the character and behaviours of both leaders on the campaign trail. You can also listen to an audio of his interview with ABC Breakfast Presenter Hamish Macdonald in June.

David Crowe's Venom: Vendettas, Betrayals and the Price of Power on the Liberal Party leadership spill and the power plays around party leadership was releaed in August. Nikki Savva's Plots and Prayers covers similar ground. Judith Brett's From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage, published before the May Federal Election, provides an analysis of Australia's voting system. You can read an extract from the book on the Conversation website.

The ANU's December 2019 Australian Election Study inter alia looked at  the wide gap in popularity between the two major party leaders, which was canvassed in Labor's wide-ranging election post-mortem, and which was reflected in voter behaviour at the 2019 poll.


The Parliamentary Library Briefing Book: key issues for the 46th Parliament provides short analyses of significant public policy ssues that may be considered over the current parliamentary term. Each article gives a high‑level perspective of these issues, covering background, context and legislative history, as well as some of the policy and legislative directions raised in the public debate.

A key issue for government is cybersecurity. This quick guide from the Parliamentary Library' provides brief background information on national measures to build cybersecurity and combat cybercrime. See also our In Brief on Cybersecurity.

Secret: the making of Australia's Security State by Brian Toohey argues that elected governments pose the greatest threat to Australians' security, with political leaders increasingly promoting secrecy, ignorance and fear to introduce new laws that undermine individual liberties.

Corporate regulation has been at the forefront of domestic issues in the wake of the Royal Commission into Banking. Banking Bad by investigative reporter Adele Ferguson tells the story of the power imbalance, toxic culture and cover-ups in the banking industry. She describes the  fight for justice by whistleblowers, victims and political mavericks, and  looks at the outcomes of the royal commission - the falls from grace, the hubris, the scathing assessment of the regulators, and the compensation bill - an estimated $10 billion.

A Wunch of Bankers: a Year in the Hayne Royal Commission by Daniel Ziffer tracks the year of the Royal Commission, revisiting the colourful highlights with his observations and analysis.Journalist Alan Koehler takes the lessons from the crisis in financial services and explains what it means for investors in It's Your Money and The People Versus the Banks by Michael Roddan captures how damning the Royal Commission is for the financial sector by putting profits before its customers.

Proving that there is life after corporate regulation,
Allan Fels has written a memoir, Tough Customer: Chasing a Better Deal for Battlers which is a fascinating account of his post-ACCC life.


The issue of public trust has loomed large again in 2019.  According to the Museum of Australian Democracy's Democracy 2025 project,  the country's leading institutions have been ranked among the least trusted in the world at a time when the economy has experienced twenty-seven years of economic growth.  In From Turnbull to Morrison: Understanding the Trust Divide political journalists including Michelle Grattan, George Megalogenis, Megan Davis, Virginia Haussegger, Mark Kenny and Katharine Murphy and  academics such as Frank Bongiorno, Mark Evans, Susan Harris-Rimmer, Anne Tiernan, John Warhurst and George Williams examine the institutions, the issues and the leaders at the heart of this crisis.

The above-mentioned Australian Election Study  also found that public trust in democracy is at an all time low. See here  here and here for some press comment on these findings. For more on this issue, see our In Brief on Public Trust.


Public sector stewardship is a service ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources for the benefit of others, often with no financial reward. In October 2019,  the UNSW Public Service Research Group (PSRG) launched its fourth issues paper How can systems thinking enhance stewardship of public services?  In this paper, Linda Dewey, Deborah Blackman and Helen Dickinson outline three alternative theoretical perspectives of co-production and suggest the way forward for academics and practitioners. Issues Papers provide an account of the state of the art evidence and issues around an important theme for contemporary public services. Other papers from the PSRG can be found here.

The 2019 State of the Service Report  looked at the current state of the APS under the themes of culture and capability  and was tabled in Parliament 0n 28 November 2019. The first chapter Institutional Stewardship goes into 5 aspects of stewardship - One APS; Fostering a performance culture; Effective performance management; Effective evaluation; Preparing for the future


In this age of polarised political debate news and politics, podcasts have grown increasingly popular. Not only does listening to them allow us to deep dive and explore ideas in more detail but they also soak up some of the social energy we feel compelled to devote to processing this relentlessly historic era. The Party Room is an ABC podcast where Fran Kelly and  Patricia Karvelas pull apart the week in politics. For some guidance on American political podcasts, go to Vulture's list The 10 News and Politics Podcasts that Shaped the Genre while British Brexit  podcasts are rated here.

Political blogs have been around for longer and are are another useful medium for exploring topics in more detail and receiving regular updates and tailored information. The Power to Persuade blog complements the Power to Persuade symposium. Both aim to improve understanding and communication between key groups involved in the process of designing, implementing and studying social policy. Power to Persuade is jointly directed by the Public Service Research Group at UNSW Canberra, and The Women's Research, Advocacy and Policy (WRAP) Centre.

2019 elevated the issue of fake news, which can be defined as disinformation intentionally spread for political purposes, often via social media platforms. The Conversation website has a fake news topic which is regularly updated. See also the Guardian's Top 10 Books About Fake News which lists its top book as Propaganda by Edward Bernays, published in 1928, proving that everything old is new again.


IPAA QLD, with the Griffith University's Policy Innovation Hub have put together their own summer reading list, as well as an article which goes into each of the choices in more detail. Another great list of reading resources is the Grattan Institute's summer reading list for the Prime Minister.  The list contains books that Grattan believes "the Prime Minister - or indeeed any Australian - will find stimulating over the break.They're all good reads that say something interesting about Australia, the world and the future."  Summer Reading List for the Prime Minister 2019 was launched on 3 December 2019

Some thought-provoking Australian titles recently published incuding Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta - an introduction to the Aboriginal custom of drawing images on the ground, to convey knowledge. The Golden Country by Tim Watts explores national identity, immigration and multiculturalism through Australia’s history of migration and exclusion. Superpower by economics journalist Ross Garnaut  offers a road map for the Australian economy that allows our nation to address the twin crises of economy and climate. See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill is a meticulously researched account of the national shame that is domestic violence in Australia.


International books that are attracting interest include Money and Government by British economic historian Robert Siddels which uses the economic history of the ideas that influence monetary policy to take aim at the belief that economic outcomes are best left to the ‘invisible hand’ of the market. If you need to motivate the people in your life to take climate change more seriously Greta Thunberg’s No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, a collection of the Swedish activist’s speeches is a great gift for anyone looking to get galvanized.

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino is an excursion in contemporary cultural critique. From reality TV and the internet, to the status of identity, feminism, and womanhood in this political moment, Jia Tolentino writes with the aplomb of the best essayists. Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Widows of ISIS by Azadeh Moeveni is a gripping account of thirteen women who joined, endured, and, in some cases, escaped life in the Islamic State.


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