National

Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd says ignore 'right-wing warlord' labels

New Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd says he is no soldier of the far right-wing about to sweep through the federal bureaucracy, and promises to stand up for public servants when unfairly maligned.

New Public Service Commisioner John Lloyd.
New Public Service Commisioner John Lloyd. Photo: Jay Cronan

Upon news of his appointment to the job, critics with union links called Mr Lloyd a "stalwart of the radical right", "an extreme ideologue" and a "pin-up boy" and "warrior" for the Institute of Public Affairs.

But on Thursday Mr Lloyd brushed aside the comments during his first media interview in the job.

"I don't place much store in labels," he said.

"I think those labels are ill-informed. 

"I've served the Coalition and ALP over decades. I gained entry into the [bureaucracy's] senior executive service when I was in my early 30s. I am a public servant.

"We're not politicians. When the public service is unjustifiably criticised, my job is to defend it."  

One of his goals is to help departments and agencies attract the most talented staff – a cause also close to the heart of predecessor Stephen Sedgwick. 

Mr Lloyd came to the job one month ago and said he did not see any serious reduction in morale in the midst of enterprise bargaining negotiations with 160,000 public servants.

Few advances have been made during negotiations so far and industrial action is expected to increase. 

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"I don't think there are serious problems [with morale]," he said.  

"I've got no feedback [saying] morale is down."

Although he has been a champion of greater access to casualisation in the Australian workforce in the past, Mr Lloyd said there was no magic number in terms of the ratio he would like to see in the federal bureaucracy.

He noted many Australians sought out work as independent contractors because of the flexibility it provided. 

"There are more independent contractors than there are union members [in Australia]," he said.  

Mr Lloyd said one of the biggest challenges for the public service was to ensure it was "at pains to understand" how government regulations could  affect businesses and the community.

"Make sure [regulations] are appropriate and not too oppressive," he said. 

As Red Tape Commissioner in Victoria he saw some government regulations were "almost perverse".

Mr Lloyd walks most mornings before work and said public servants should not neglect their family life. 

"Balanced people, who have interests beyond work, generally make better leaders in the public service," he said. 

He said senior public servants should be well-grounded and be prepared to read source documents – which often meant the legislation – when trying to make a decision at a time when conflicting advice has been provided.

Mr Lloyd said much of the criticism of his background has come from people within the union movement. He has a history of staring down some of the most powerful construction unions in the country as a former Australian Building and Construction Commissioner – a controversial position started under the Howard government, abolished under Julia Gillard and now being resurrected by the Coalition.

From 2005 to 2010 he waged war on unlawful industrial action and coercion by building unions, which said the commissioner's powers were far too broad because it could summon workers to attend interviews or face jail.