Work With Purpose

Monday April 24, 2023

How government experts self-sabotage

Australia’s public service is based on the principle of providing frank and fearless advice, where advice is expected to be honest and politically neutral to ensure public trust. However, after official policy advice is released, governments are sometimes accused of ignoring or rejecting their experts, raising questions about the efficacy of the advice itself.

On this episode of Work with Purpose, we hear from ANU academic Dr Christiane Gerblinger about her recently released book ‘How Government Experts Self-Sabotage: The Language of the Rebuffed’. Along with host David Pembroke, Dr Gerblinger unpacks why policy advice is sometimes rejected, and looks at why experts can be reluctant to disclose information to accommodate political circumstances. She also suggests ways to improve the structure and presentation of official advice to make it clearer and more accessible for those who receive it.

Discussed in this episode:

  • Why governments sometimes overlook expert policy advice
  • Several cases where policy advice was ignored or rejected
  • The importance of clarity and courage in giving official advice
  • How experts can improve their writing to convince their audience to consider their advice in decision-making.


Dr Christiane Gerblinger

After completing a PhD on science and regeneration in Gothic science fiction in 2000, Dr Christiane Gerblinger worked in a range of public sector roles, including as senior adviser on counter-proliferation, energy, health and rural policy as well as a speechwriter in an economics portfolio. Her last stint as a speechwriter led to her being awarded the prestigious Sir Roland Wilson scholarship to undertake a second PhD on the language of rejected or ignored policy advice. After graduating in 2021, she went on to become a visiting fellow at the Australian National University’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science.


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