Today, I’m an academic. Tomorrow, I become a public servant. After some generous arm-twisting from the brother of a famous econ-blogger (and no small amount of flexibility from my senior ANU colleagues), I’m taking a six-month secondment to the Australian Treasury. I’ll be a principal adviser in the social policy division, working on issues such as health, education, and labour markets.
The position will run in two three-month blocks: July to September, and December to February. Not surprisingly, the job requiresÂ that I cease media commentary, stop writing my column for the AFR, and close down this blog.
The last will be perhaps the biggest lifestyle change for me. Since I began blogging in July 2004, I’ve written nearly 2000 posts, or about 1.4 postings a day. There have been several times when I’ve contemplated giving it up, but the pleasures of being able to get an idea out into the world meant that I never quite managed to kick the habit. My guess is that I’ll get the blog going again in March 2009, but it’s possible that I’ll move on to other things (there are a couple of books I’ve wanted to write, and directing blog time into book time might turn out to be sensible in the long run).
I’ve never worked as a public servant before, so I’m not sure whether I’ll be temperamentally suited to the role. One of the great joys of academia is being able to choose what you work on each day. When I chat withÂ friends who are working for this government, this doesn’t sound like one of the luxuries they presently enjoy.
Still, for an AustralianÂ social democrat, this seems like a unique time to try and have some impact on policy (however small it might turn out to be). As anyone who’s read my stuff would know, I’m keen to push ideas around getting more great schoolÂ teachers in front of low-income kids, improving the evidence base on Indigenous policy, getting more information into the public domain, and perhaps even getting a randomised trial or two underway. Worst case scenario is that I get to learn a bit about how government works, and spend six months in a department run by Ken Henry, one of the more impressive people in Australian public life.* That doesn’t seem like much downside risk to be bearing.
So it’s goodbye from me, at least for a little while. Thanks to my readers: commenters and lurkers all. It’s been a pleasure.
* Once he returns from his wombat-shooting trip, that is.