Cluster Analysis: the re-organisation of the NSW Public Sector

Michael Comninos
April 8, 2019

Aligning your strategies with NSW Government priorities can  add value to your projects. What can we learn about the recent changes to cabinet? 

Following the NSW State Government election on 23 March, the Coalition was re-elected to government and swore in a new cabinet, introducing several new portfolios and amalgamating others. Pundits have already begun to predict what these changes mean for various services and government operations. But let’s first pull back and take a look at the mechanics of what has happened, and see how these changes affect your approach when dealing with government as a client or collaborator. 

The context in which government decisions are made is often referred to as the authorising environment. During elections, political parties earn their authority to govern by laying out a series of actions, usually accompanied by a promise of funding, and campaign by demonstrating their intent and capacity to deliver those actions. In other words, the parties weigh up the needs of the community against the available resources and present a plan to get the best public value.

 The winner of the election then has a popular mandate to set their plan in action. The election is of course more than just a win or a loss, with different parts of NSW responding differently to the public value proposition. This must be considered by the incoming government and results in the original propositions being modified, to the relief of some voters and to the frustration of others.  

In the recent election there was an enormous amount of commitments from both major parties. In order to deliver on this complex suite of election commitments, the government has decided to recalibrate its structures by changing the makeup of the cabinet. In other words, the government has considered its priority in public value (election commitments), its legitimacy and support (election outcome) and reorganised its organisational capacity (Cabinet, Ministers and Public Service) as illustrated in the diagram. This system is dynamic and continues to change throughout the term, although naturally the greatest changes are expected directly after an election. 

Astrolabe Advocacy diagram

What the new clusters already tell us about Government direction in NSW  

To this affect, the composition of a new cabinet can tell us much about what to expect in the next four years. Some of the key signs at this early stage are how agencies are amalgamated to fit into one another and the advantages or disadvantages this may bestow on various industries and areas.  

The combining of Planning and Industry for example, is likely to help growth in the regions, as it strategically aligns the approval of new developments with the placement of jobs. However, these predictions are rarely straightforward. The absorption of the Office of Environment and Heritage into the Energy portfolio immediately caused widespread criticism from conservationists who believe it will weaken the environmental agenda, while it could equally be interpreted as a move to prepare for renewables in the near future. 

While changes to the cabinet will naturally cause some teething problems, for the vast majority of public servants, day-to-day functions will remain the same. What it will cause is a change in the strategic operating environment, and for anyone working closely with the NSW Government this means a re-examination of their own strategies to align with these new directions. 

Astrolabe Group offer expertise in strategies to work with all levels of government. Get in touch with Michael Comninos, Founding Director at [email protected] 

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