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Keywords:

  • ministers and executive politics;
  • public management policy;
  • organisational performance management

This article explores the design of public management policies in Westminster-based systems, with a focus on Australia. It argues that orthodox analysis of public management policy is deficient in two ways: first, policy change directed at bureaucratic structures tends to ignore the critical role that ministers must play in making ‘management’ reforms work; second, such policy change tends to assume away key ‘inherencies’ that inhibit behavioural changes in politicians that might otherwise be expected from enhanced management structures. The article examines the under-conceptualised managerial role that requires ministers to be an integral part of departmental leadership, and contends that key aspects of public management – in particular, performance control – are dependent on this ministerial role orientation becoming more prominent. In effect, the article raises a public management ‘heresy’ by profiling the need for ministers to conform more with their own prescriptions for improved management.