Story: State services and the State Services Commission

Donald Robertson

Donald Robertson

Donald Robertson was the first public service commissioner. During his term (1913–20), the merit principle was introduced, and he classified all public-service jobs and graded employees. The merit principle had limited application when it came to gender, however – Robertson barred women from the public-service entrance examination, made them resign if they married, and fixed their maximum salaries lower than those of men. Robertson’s approach to women in the public service was maintained and in some ways extended for decades to come.

Before becoming public service commissioner, Robertson was secretary of the Post and Telegraph Department (he is shown here in his office). That agency was an important government department, but was exempt from the commissioner’s control. It had a powerful influence on the public service commissioner’s office and the procedures it set up.

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Archives New Zealand - Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
Reference: AAME W5603 8106 130

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How to cite this page:

Mark Prebble, 'State services and the State Services Commission - The merit principle', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 September 2020)

Story by Mark Prebble, published 20 Jun 2012