Thirty minutes after his lecture had ended journalist Marcus Priest was still fielding questions and comments from students of Griffith University’s Graduate Certificate in Policy Analysis (GCPA) at the Griffith Graduate Centre in South Bank.
Mr Priest was the latest in a long line of carefully-selected guest speakers to have addressed six cohorts of GCPA students since the course’s inception in 2007.
Now a political reporter with the Australian Financial Review in Canberra, Marcus Priest previously worked as a senior advisor to the Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland between 2008 and 2010.
He was perfectly placed to discuss a politician’s relationship with the media, and the role of the politician’s support staff in an environment where hostile questions and media influence on public policy are constantly on the radar.
“What is important for our politicians is not just the message but how it is communicated,” Mr Priest told a student body drawn predominantly from Queensland’s public service sector.
He said unnatural, predetermined buzz-terms like Prime Minister Gillard’s “moving forward” catch-phrase only undermined a politician’s status, and argued that a more natural, open demeanour before the media worked in the public representative’s favour.
“Let your ministers speak for themselves. Put the facts before them and let them make their own minds up.”
Marcus Priest’s address followed in the footsteps of Opposition leader Tony Abbott, former Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett, former Queensland ministers including Treasurer Andrew Fraser, Stephen Robertson, Karen Struthers and John Mickel, as well as from statutory officers such as Queensland Ombudsman Phil Clarke.
Through the years around 180 students have benefited the unique blend of theory and practitioner perspectives that underpins the program’s design.
“The aim of involving expert guests is to bring students from the public service face to face with those who make decisions and develop policy,” GCPA Director, Associate Professor Anne Tiernan says. “My brief to guests is to use their experience to teach the students something they will never learn in a textbook.”
Students never know who they will meet when they attend one of the four intensive courses they undertake over a year to complete the GCPA program.
“We keep it shrouded in mystery, sometimes right up to the time our guest joins students in the classroom. It creates some anticipation and excitement. Graduates cite the calibre and contribution of our guests as a distinctive feature of the program. Those from earlier cohorts always want to know who we have got coming this year,” Dr Tiernan said.
Students of the course have also been addressed by a range of experts on Cabinet, current and former senior officials from Commonwealth and state government agencies, as well as by guests drawn from the private and not-for-profit sectors.
Academic contributors are drawn from across Griffith University, the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) and from Australian and overseas universities.
“Our postgraduate courses reflect Griffith’s national and international reputation as a leader in government and international relations. Our programs are known for being research-led, industry engaged and at the cutting edge of theory and practice in the discipline.”
Amanda Clatworthy is a graduate of the GCPA and now works as a policy project manager with the Queensland Government.
“The course content achieved a wonderful balance between academic theory and practical application, and gave me much greater confidence to pursue my new career,” she says.
“Its structure provided an excellent forum for frank discussions between students from different portfolios of government with guest speakers and academics. The benefit cannot be underestimated.”