Fish Rot from the Head
In a recent op-ed published in Pearls and Irritations, I addressed serious breaches of leadership integrity within the Australian Public Service (APS) and the need for accountability. My article discussed how Secretaries like Michael Pezzullo and Kathryn Campbell brought shame upon the APS due to unethical conduct.
The phrase "fish rot from the head" is a stark reminder that when those in leadership positions fail to uphold the principles of integrity, entire organisations suffer. And in the case of the APS, it's not just an internal matter; there are far-reaching implications for the functioning of our democracy.
Integrity is a fundamental pillar of all successful organisations. It means adhering to a set of ethical principles, being honest, transparent, and acting in the best interests of the public. When individuals in leadership positions deviate from these principles, it erodes trust, undermines accountability, and ultimately harms the very institutions they're meant to serve.
Recent revelations about Pezzullo's actions have raised significant concerns about his commitment to impartiality, a core value of the APS. His partisan interventions and personal biases have cast a dark shadow over the APS's integrity and impartiality. They bring shame on the many thousands of honest, committed and hard-working Australians who work as public servants. Pezzullo's actions have not only damaged the reputation of the APS but also threatened the principles of democracy that rely on the public service providing impartial, honest, and transparent advice to the government.
The message is clear: integrity matters, especially at the highest levels of leadership. It sets the tone for entire organisations and influences culture. Leaders must be held to the same standards they expect from their subordinates, as outlined in the APS Code of Conduct.
Accountability is crucial. Those who fail to uphold principles of integrity and impartiality, like Pezzullo and Campbell, must be held accountable for their actions. The reputation of the APS, and by extension, our democracy, depends on it.
It's not just about individuals in leadership positions; it's about safeguarding the integrity of our institutions and ensuring that they continue to serve the best interests of Australia and its peoples. Pezzullo must go.