A new book on the role of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff is bound to pique the curiosity of anyone with even a passing interest in the machinations of Australian politics.

The Gatekeepers, co-authored by Griffith University’s Anne Tiernan and Rod Rhodes, presents a unique insight into one of the most influential jobs in Australian government, and charts its evolution during the past 40 years under each Prime Minister from Fraser to Rudd.

“No longer can the chief of staff operate in the background, beyond the glare of media scrutiny,” Dr Tiernan says. “Their performance is inextricably linked to the effectiveness – or not – of the Prime Minister they serve.”

The lessons learned from the book will prompt debate and discussion in many walks of life, from academics to historians, from journalists to those who live for political sport.

Nurturing this debate and further informing the discussion was very much in Associate Professor Tiernan’s thoughts when she linked up with Griffith University ePress to explore other electronic avenues for the book and the research behind it.

The result of the collaboration between the School of Government and International Relations and the Division of Information Services is an exciting new digital platform that takes the audience beyond the words on the page.

“It is effectively a companion piece for the book, a platform for its content,” Julie Blakey, Griffith University ePress, says. “It’s a different way of expanding visibility beyond the book.

“This was a proof of concept project where a platform is utilised to investigate story-telling techniques and the potential for Griffith academics to share their research.”

GatekeepersArmed with the knowledge that one in five academics has a Twitter account, and aware of potential interest in academic, political and journalistic circles, Julie Blakey also set the social media wheels in motion to harvest a wider audience for The Gatekeepers.

She describes the response as phenomenal with new and interested parties from Europe, Canada and the US quickly boosting Anne Tiernan’s social media network by 120% as they logged on to the Creatavist platform also used by organisations like the Wall Street Journal and TED.

“We hope to explore its potential to develop a digital archive where 15 years of research into ministerial advisory systems can be stored and showcased,” Dr Tiernan, Director of Griffith’s Master of Public Administration program, says.

“My collaboration with Griffith University ePress and Griffith’s Learning Futures team has opened my eyes to the extraordinary possibilities of new digital platforms to enrich all aspects of my scholarship.

“I’m especially interested in the potential to manage and make available research information and data that can be accessed by anyone interested in this subject. It’s a great example of what can be achieved when we bring together the kind of expertise we were able to leverage for this digital product.

“Seeing the range of online platforms, the ability to embed social media and then to link to digital publishing has encouraged me to think much more laterally about we can curate rich content to enhance and enrich our students’ learning. I’m excited about the possibilities, particularly around the MPA.”