Outsourcing public services to the private sector became central to the playbook of bureaucracies after ‘new public management’ theories took hold of Australian public services in the 1990s. An unspoken benefit was that it was an indirect way of breaking up unionised workforces within governments.
New public management was the handmaiden of neoliberal economics. The idea was that the private sector run things more efficiently (and cheaply) than governments.
Another assumption is that content-free management in general (and MBA holders in particular) were superior heads of departments. These generalist managers are apparently better placed to deal with the policies of government more efficiently and effectively than those with specialist knowledge.
Frank and Fearless left the public service many years ago. We urgently need to bring them back.
First published in The Saturday Paper 27 May 2023