Governments, politicians and public servants

Subject: Governments, politicians and public servants
From: "Syd Curtis" <>
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2000 05:13:37 +1000
Hi all,

    This mainly for fun.   Delete now if only interested in serious birding

As an ex-public servant (retired '88) in the nature conservation field, I've
enjoyed the recent spate of messages and had intended to abstain from
joining the fray, but can't resist a couple of reminiscences.

Working in a legal area (sens lat), I sought legal advice (as I was required
to do) from the Government's (legal organisation) Department.  I happened to
know the statute involved quite well and knew that the advice our Department
eventually received in reply to be wrong.  I bewailed this fact to an old
experienced friend, who must have had a touch of "Sir Humphrey" in him
though this was long before "Yes Minister".

"Not to worry, Syd," was his advice.  "Write another a letter again asking
for advice and don't mention the first one.  The (legal organisation)
Department is a very big organisation.   As a matter of chance, your letter
will go to another legal eagle and you'll get a different answer.  If you're
very unlucky, you might have to try a third time.  When you get the answer
you want, use it an throw the rest away."

And no, I don't know if he ever practiced what he preached.   But it sounds
possible.  This one I can vouch for - first hand:  Something came up
affecting the interests of another Department that was not clear-cut.  There
were a couple of ways of handling it.  In correct public service fashion I
drafted a letter from our Minister to their Minister inviting him to advise
how they would prefer us to handle the situation, and put it in the
pipe-line.   In due course, two replies filtered down to me, a day or two
apart - both signed by the same Minister, but giving different advice!

No, Ministers can't read, fully understand, and remember, everything put in
front of them to sign.  Believe it or not, politicians (and public servants)
are human, after all!


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