The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is the heart of government in Australia. Its history reveals the growing sophistication in the way politics and government are managed, and provides fascinating glimpses of the day-to-day workings of the most important institution in the country.
Now a century old, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is at the heart of government in Australia. From Postbox to Powerhouse tracks its history, from its very humble beginnings as a department that did little more than circulate papers between other government departments.
Since the start of World War I, the federal government has extended its activities. As prime ministers became involved in all areas of government, so, decade by decade, the department became increasingly influential in its own right. Prime ministers have required talented and dedicated people to advise them. Today, the department is the centre of government, a powerhouse which not only serves prime ministers but in doing so must address the major national issues of the day, including climate change, capacity constraints, terrorism and skills shortages.
Through this history of a government department, we have a bird's-eye view of the radical changes in the way politics and government have been managed over a century, and many fascinating glimpses of the day-to-day workings of what is now one of the most important institutions in the country.
Professor Patrick Weller, AO, is Director of the Centre for Governance and Public Policy at Griffith University. Joanne Scott is Professor in History and Bronwyn Stevens is Program Leader for the BA (International Studies) at the University of the Sunshine Coast. They are authors of The Engine Room of Government: The Queensland Premier's Department 1859-2001.