Public Value and the Future of Public Policy, in conversation with Hon Tony Abbott

The Hon Tony Abbott with Catherine Batch and Dr Tony Peloso

Something former prime ministers agree is that in retirement they should normally avoid political commentary however a discussion on public value is apparently welcomed.

Dr Tony Peloso and I recently hosted a webinar in QUT’s Public Sector Management discussion series with guest speaker the Hon Tony Abbott AC, former Prime Minister of Australia.

While Australians rarely get to hear from a former PM in a learning setting, this lecture marked the second in the series, and only the second time Hon Abbott had been invited to speak at an Australian university.

The Public Sector Management Program cohort of students which is made up of State and Commonwealth public servants welcomed the opportunity to ask the question ‘what is public value?’.

Abbott recently returned from the UK in his new role for the British board of trade, the former PM was relaxed and obliging sharing insights on future policy and trends in Government from hotel quarantine in Sydney.

Abbott opened with comments on public life.

“It is easy to be sceptical however in the end no one goes into any form of public life without a strong sense of idealism and without wanting to do good.

“Everyone is in it to try and do the right thing.”

And continued with commentary on the difference between the left and right of politics.

“Whether you a voter of the right and you are wanting government to be promoting more freedom, or if you are voter for the left and you are wanting the government to be promoting more fairness, there is an intimate relationship between freedom and fairness. Without freedom, there can be no fairness.”

Abbott acknowledged people’s general agreement that they want the government to get things done and to address practical problems.

The questions ended with the easiest to answer, ‘what is next for Tony Abbott’, and the question he was most wary of answering and used the cricketing analogy ‘of not going out on a full toss’.

“There is not much a former PM can honourably do, and you are overqualified for most roles. You don’t want to slip into the role of ‘all care and no responsibility commentator’ on your successors. However, there will be times when I have things to say on public issues.” he concluded.

The webinar also included approximately 100+ current Public Sector Management Program (PSMP) participants from around Australia, who were encouraged to use this opportunity to ask questions of Mr Abbott.

Watch the full webinar below:


The Public Sector Management Program (PSMP) is a nationally recognised and dynamic study option catering specifically for mid-level managers in the Australian public service and non-Government organisations.

Learn more: https://www.qut.edu.au/study/professional-and-executive-education/upskill-and-help-your-career-take-off

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Catherine is a Corporate Educator for QUT, teaching subjects in MBA and public sector management. She has a strong expertise in communication with a focus on its application for business technology. Her PhD research is on the role trust plays in artificial intelligence for ASX listed companies. Her aim is help ASX companies understand the requisite trust factors online when considering the application of artificial intelligence.

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