Christopher Pyne suggests in his new book the usual pace of the public service sometimes resembles a three-toed sloth's, the world's slowest mammal, but insists public servants responded better to honey than vinegar and were always good to work with.
And when he wanted them to get something done, his instructions were that the task should not be given to the tea lady. As a minister, Pyne says he gave the instruction to then Defence department secretary Dennis Richardson.
"I want you to give it to somebody so that it happens quickly and comes back to me. I don't want you to give it to the tea lady and say in months from now, 'Oh yes, I don't know where that body of work is, I'll chase it up, minister'," Pyne says he told Richardson.
Pyne also says ministers responded to the public service's expert advice, rejecting former Human Services department secretary Renee Leon's recent suggestion government had come to be led by anecdote.
"But that didn't mean that I regarded their advice as holy writ. And my view was that, as the minister, my job was to make decisions and if they didn't like them, well they still had to implement them," he tells The Canberra Times.
Pyne's new book, The Insider, to be published on Tuesday, covers the period from 2007 to 2019 - from government to opposition and back again.
Pyne says he has never shied away from the media, an approach which drew some criticism when he was minister for defence industry for focusing on big-ticket projects rather than policy development.
"Obviously in areas like innovation, defence industry, education - when the government has a big program, as we did - you want people to know about it. So having a salesman in the job is obviously an advantage.I've never been backward in coming forward," Pyne says.
"That said, that's not a criticism of [then defence minister] Marise Payne. Marise Payne's a very good minister and very, very good in the media. And when she does the media, she's second to none. I just think that Malcolm [Turnbull] put me in that job because I'm a bit of an extrovert."
It was a very rough week and you know, they set out to assassinate the Prime Minister and ended up kind of clubbing him to death like a harp seal on the beach for days on end.Christopher Pyne on the leadership challenge in August 2018
Pyne, who was elected the member for Sturt in 1993, first arrived in Canberra as a "terribly excited" staffer to Senator Amanda Vanstone in 1986, working in Old Parliament House.
"There was a certain mustiness about it. There was no security, everybody was thrust together in the same corridors," he says.
"People used to party together, from across Labor, Democrats and Liberal. The Greens were but a twinkle in the eye of Bob Brown. And it was a very different, sleepy, smaller place than it is today. And it's amazing how dramatically Canberra has changed in that quarter of a century. It's become a real city."
Among the book's anecdotes, Pyne writes Scott Morrison was not scheming to replace Malcolm Turnbull in the leadership challenges of August 2018, contradicting Turnbull's view of what happened. Morrison denies working against Turnbull until Turnbull pulled out of the ballot.
Pyne writes that the plot to remove Turnbull was as an "amateur-hour operation", like "open mic at the 'Graham Richardson School of Whatever It Takes' karaoke night". Pyne saves his sharpest criticisms for the group that never had the numbers in the first place and who, Pyne writes, at one stage sent out for an antiquated overhead projector to help with their ill-fated scheming.
"What were they thinking buying an overhead projector? It's just too delicious, isn't it? When I was told that, I thought, 'Oh my goodness'.
"I describe them as the McHale's Navy band of people trying to tear Malcolm Turnbull down. It was a very rough week and you know, they set out to assassinate the Prime Minister and ended up kind of clubbing him to death like a harp seal on the beach for days on end," he says.
Pyne, who, as manager of Opposition business and then Leader of the House, spent plenty of time skewering his opponents, says politicians need to separate the political from the personal but retain their authenticity. There's no need for a concocted struggle-street origin story where there is none, he says.
As a 14-year-old, Pyne writes he thought he had a calling to the priesthood, but when a Jesuit Father at his Adelaide school explained there was little chance of him becoming Pope, the vocation was quickly abandoned.
"I thought, well, that's not going to be happening. I'm not going to be sitting in a parish on York Peninsula for the next 50 years. So I was out of that idea faster than a bat out of hell, and turned my attention to politics instead," Pyne says.
Some religious convictions remained, with Pyne writing that he was in favour of keeping morning prayers in Parliament.
"I didn't say the Lord's Prayer out loud [in the chamber's morning prayers] for the simple reason that many of the people I noted who were saying it the loudest were the very same people who were the most vicious and personally denigrating of their colleagues behind their backs!" Pyne writes in the book.
Pyne's ultimate ambition, to become prime minister, truly hit a dead end when the list of suggested candidates to replace a wounded Turnbull did not include him. It was then, Pyne says, he knew he had reached the end of his time in politics.
"That week [when Turnbull was deposed] was a lightbulb moment for me. It wasn't that Malcolm himself had been removed, as much as I like Malcolm, it was that I thought, well, they're moving to a new generation, which is Scott and Josh, which is great ... I'm not going to rise any further than I have," Pyne says.
Known for his sense of humour, Pyne says he hopes there's still plenty left among his former colleagues.
"There must be deep wellsprings of humour in the Morrison government. I can only assume," Pyne says.
Pyne says hedoesn't miss politics. Since leaving at the 2019 election, he controversially took a job with consulting firm EY and was appointed an industry professor in the University of South Australia's business school.
"I have not watched question time since I left. I took some clients around Parliament House a few months ago, when we could, and they wanted to go to question time. And I said, 'That's lovely, you go and one of my staffers will take you, but I can't go'," Pyne says.
"It's a bit like the former CEO sitting at the annual general meeting in the front row glowering at the new CEO ... You've got to know when to let go."
- The Insider by Christopher Pyne is published by Hachette on June 30.