The Bureaucrats Who Are Bringing Sexy Back


Have you ever considered a career in the public service?

In times past, this was a laughable question, akin to a query like, "have you ever considered eating your own eyeballs?" or, "how would you feel about having a live shark shoved up your skirt?" A career in the public service? Where dreams go to die? No thanks.

As exalted positions in the Australian community go, the public service has traditionally ranked somewhere between Mr Baldy and Sally Robbins. Think about it: when was the last time you heard somebody loudly and proudly announce to a crowded room, "I’m a records clerk for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Local Government?" I bet it was a pretty long time ago. And I bet at the time you thought to yourself, "Sweet Jesus, what a gold-medal knob."

After all, who are the heroes of the public service, the role models for aspiring public servants? Really, the modern public service wannabe has too few options. He or she could, of course, look to the former head of the Prime Minister’s Department, Max Moore-Wilton, a man known to his enemies as a ruthless political operator, as a man who abandoned all sense of independence and propriety when he politicised the public service, but who is known to his friends as the Spawn of Cthulhu, Eater of Souls. Would a modern, ambitious young man or woman really want to follow the example of a chap who willingly assisted the Howard government in its various outrages, who traded personal integrity and ethics for base worldly success? Probably — but only one Moore-Wilton can exist at a time, so following in his footsteps is not the most efficient route.

So if we leave aside the possibility of following in the footsteps of Dark Lord Moore-Wilton, where does that leave us? Andrew Wilkie and Godwin Grech. Very probably — and I’m making the most conservative estimate possible here — the two most mentally unstable human beings in Australia’s history. Yes, including Meg Lees.

Should the public service younglings follow Wilkie, Australia’s own Don Quixote, running madly about the place resigning from this and expressing ethical concerns about that and writing books about breathtaking criminal deceit regarding the other? A man with a chip on his shoulder and a disturbing compulsion to run in elections for the Greens?

Or should they follow Godwin Grech, and devote every waking hour to irrelevant email cc-ing, failed attempts to destabilise governments and eating insects?

No, career-wise, the public service is about as appealing to the youth of today as an all-expenses-paid week in Fiji with David and Libby Koch.

Until now.

Mark this date down, readers. You will always remember it as the day your preconceptions were blown clean out of the water and you suddenly realised … the public service is awesome.

And this realisation will come to you as soon as you take a look at MIX 106.3’s Men of the Public Service Calendar competition.

And as soon as you do, you will realise that the public service is not, in fact, the staid, mundane, stultifying place you imagined. It’s fun. It’s irreverent. It’s SEXY.

Just look at Brendan from the Family Court, rakishly wearing his Santa hat, flashing the camera an impish smile that just screams, "Come sit on my knee, Australia; I’ll stuff your stocking." If that’s not the pinnacle of festive civic sauciness, I don’t know what is.

Or look right below him, at Brian, from FaHCSIA. Now, I think that picture should put paid once and for all to the misbegotten theory that staff of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs can’t pull off a stylish Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume. Debate … over.

As you scroll down, the contest just keeps giving. Check out Daniel from Centrelink. Can you imagine heading in to drop off your Jobs Diary, only to be confronted by that tasty fillet of man-veal standing before you, hand seductively clutching at his hip. Woof! Don’t let it get out, guys, the unemployment rate will SOAR.

In many ways Garry from the Australian Communications and Media Authority is the most endearing man of the public service, I think, and I gave serious consideration to giving him my vote. It is rare to find a man with the self-confidence to say, "Yes, I will don a hat that makes me look like a special-needs student learning to ride the bus, and I will do it happily, because I am comfortable in my own skin, and I literally do not care what anyone thinks of me."

But then again, look at the picture of "Giulo: Health", to which the only sane response is, "Yes you are!" Or look at Jesse from the Australian Public Service Commission, who not only looks sensational, but has obviously latched onto the growing public discontent with the lack of gang warfare among civil servants. Or Matty from FaHCSIA — hey Matty, with finger gestures like those, you’ll never be wantin’ for the honeys! Or of course Adam, who has some Corrective Services of his own, for some very naughty boys.

But I think, after looking through them all, you will agree with me that there is one man who really encapsulates the new, hunky, relevant public service, who combines in one magnificent package everything that bureaucracy is all about: the sense of duty, the impartiality, the attention to detail, the fearlessly practical advice to elected leaders and, most of all, the intense commitment and unbending discipline required to buff up, slather oneself in oil, and flex like your life depended on it.

Say what you like about the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; as long as Neil’s there, you can’t say it’s not buff. When Julia Gillard whips a department into shape, she does not cut corners.

So I think Neil, despite his mid-table status at present, is a shoo-in, and I encourage you all to get on board the Neil-train and vote him into the calendar. With enough votes, hopefully he will take out the coveted Mr April slot, and be photographed naked except for a helmet in a trench at Anzac Cove. Settle down, ladies — the votes aren’t in yet!

But whatever happens, whoever gets to be Mr April, Mr September (pictured at the MCG being borne aloft by the entire AFL Commission), or Mr November (wearing a sequinned mankini, smacking Bart Cummings with a riding crop), what we can agree on is that this calendar will revolutionise the way the Australian people relate to their public service. There will be no more sneering and looking down upon and throwing things at public servants once this baby hits the newsstands.

From now on we will be happy to deal with government departments; we will head to Centrelink with a merry song on our lips; we will call up the Australian Tax Office to dispute our assessments with joie de vivre bubbling from within us; we shall make official complaints to Medicare with our pants straining at the seams.

The only question is why we would want to stop there? There are all sorts of other organisations that could do with the kind of PR makeover provided by an arousing calendar. It goes without saying there should be a "Women of the Public Service" calendar — and the possibilities that rise unbidden to the mind’s eye of an exotically-arranged case file or Family Assistance form are almost too much to bear — but there’s so much more that could be done!

Imagine the girlish squeals that could be elicited from a "Men of the Australian Senate" calendar — particularly the almost X-rated June tableau of Eric Abetz, Nick Minchin and a bearskin rug. It doesn’t end there — what about "Women of the NSW Cabinet Fantasy Address Book": Kristina Keneally on a unicorn! Carmel Tebbutt fighting a troll! And of course, the obvious: "Spunks of the Future Fund Board of Guardians", where Peter Costello shows us that his commonsense in fiscal management is matched only by his super-freakiness when you put him in a loincloth and dare him to go mad.

It’s an idea whose time has come. We’ve had enough of the artificial divisions between the general public and those who serve them in the corridors of power. We’ve had enough of stuffed shirts controlling our destiny. We’ve had enough of departmental officials keeping their clothes on. It’s time to tear down the walls, tear off the clothes, and get down with the government in the sexiest way possible.

Hang a naked civil servant on your kitchen wall TODAY.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.