Public servants are scrambling to put together briefs for the new Morrison ministry while shredding reams of policy research prepared in the event of a change of government.
A senior public servant told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that staff had put the bulk of their efforts into preparing advice for a government led by Bill Shorten, after all the polls indicated he would win.
The public servant, who spoke on background, said the election result had blind-sided staff who had been working around the clock to prepare detailed advice on how to implement Labor's policies for tax, wages and climate policy reform.
In the lead-up to elections, each department and government agency prepares a detailed brief to hand their new minister after they are sworn in.
The advice to a Labor government is called a "red book" while that given to a Coalition government is referred to as a "blue book".
Former Australian Public Service commissioner Andrew Podger, now a professor at Australian National University, said there was "no doubt that departments would have put a lot of emphasis on the first one, with the expectation of a change of government".
He said public servants prepared three briefs in the lead-up to elections: one for a change of government, one for a return government with a new minister, and a slimmer version for when a minister retained the same portfolio.
Departments would have put a lot of emphasis on the red book brief expecting a change of government.Andrew Podger
"There's always a period post the election when the results are known, but you don't know who your minister is. And that's the situation they're in now," Professor Podger said.
"So, this week they'll all be polishing up their two [blue book] briefs.
"They won't need to put much into the brief for same minister, same government ... but would still have quite substantial work to do on the brief should their minister change.
"They will have been working very hard on that yesterday and today, and probably polishing it over the week."
Each of the briefs remains with its department, but confidential documents generated while preparing them are shredded.
The Coalition announced fewer policies in the lead-up to the election, meaning that while preparing briefs for the Morrison government may be simpler, the task was a less urgent priority.
However, Professor Podger said there would still be some complex issues that Coalition ministers would have to be briefed on that might not have received much attention in the media.
- SMH/The Age