Doctoral Researcher in Public Administration

About me

I am a Doctoral Researcher in Public Administration at the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute, Belgium.

I research the institutional development of political advisory systems across Anglo-Westminster countries, with a special focus on the rise of ministerial advisers wedged between the nexus of politics and administration. My comparative research project includes case studies of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The project is funded by the Flanders Research Foundation (FWO).

Prior to moving to Brussels, I worked at the University of Melbourne for five years in several roles, including as a Government Relations Adviser in the Vice-Chancellor's Office, and as researcher and teaching assistant in the Melbourne School of Government. In earlier roles, I worked as a TV Producer at Sky News Australia and spent a year supporting a foreign aid project in Solomon Islands.


email me at heath.pickering@kuleuven.be

DM me on Twitter @PolSciPick

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Research and resources

Data collection: ministerial advisers across the Westminster model

I am creating a comparative database on ministerial advisers across the Westminster model. Data includes the size of staff in ministers' offices, types of regulatory controls, and more.

Ministerial staff in Australia

I have a primary dataset on Australian political staff from 2002-2020. This includes staff working in the Prime Minister's Office, all Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, and the shadow government. Please contact me for access to this primary data.

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Summer 2019: visiting researcher at Carleton University Ottawa, Canada

In the Summer of 2019 I had the pleasure of undertaking field research in Canada. Based at Carleton University, I researched and collected data to help explain how the Prime Minister's Office and cabinet ministers' offices have evolved from small and staffed by civil servants in the 1960s, to large and staffed by partisan appointments in 2019. I wrote an op-ed article for The Conversation discussing Canadian political staff.

The 'Political Adviser' Experiment

The following statement was made by UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference, Jamaica, May 1975.

Vote Compass 2016 attracts more than 1.3 million responses

In 2016 I was a research assistant on the Vote Compass project, which is Australia’s largest survey on voter attitudes. I advised on research design, methodology, question calibration, and coded this research into an interactive civic engagement tool, hosted by the ABC (the national media broadcaster), which analysed voters’ positions on party policies. During the 2016 Australian federal election, we received more than 1.3 million responses in eight-weeks. Our research partners included the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the University of Toronto, and the University of Sydney.



Brenton, S., Pickering, H. 2020. Trustworthiness, Stability and Productivity of Minority Governments in Australia, Parliamentary Affairs, gsaa064

Brans, M., Pickering, H. 2020. Government ministers and their “Special Advisers", Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 30(3), 521–523.

Krajňák, S., Staronova, K., & Pickering, H. 2020. Ministerial Advisers in Slovakia: Profiles and Career Paths, 2010–2020, NISPAcee Journal of Public Administration and Policy, 13(2), 115-140.

Pickering, H., Brans, M., Gouglas, T. 2019. The institutionalisation of ministerial advisers in Westminster governments (1970-2019): a systematic review and thematic synthesis. Paper presented at the International Conference on Public Policy, 26-28 June. Montreal, Canada.

Articles in Progress

The politics of politicisation in Australian and Canadian ministers' offices

Op-ed articles

Pickering, H 2020, Covid-19 to entrench 'big government' policies for good, 28 April, The Mandarin, Canberra

Pickering, H 2019, Why Canada has so many political advisers, 17 October, The Conversation, Toronto

Pickering, H 2018, Russia’s strange, predictable election,15 March, Pursuit, Melbourne

Pickering, H 2017, How QLD’s election could see One Nation swept into power, 24 November, VICE, Melbourne

Pickering, H 2017, Australia’s Referendum Drought, 16 August, Pursuit, Melbourne

Pickering, H 2016, Three-year parliamentary terms are too short, 17 May, Huffington Post

Brenton, S and Pickering, H 2016, The Rise of LGBTIQ Politicians, 30 June, Election Watch, Melbourne

Pickering, H 2016, Brexit proves Baby Boomers should get less of a vote, 27 June, VICE

Pickering, H 2016, Give Permanent Residents the Vote, 22 June, SBS News, Sydney

Pickering, H 2016, Foreign aid fail: the ‘lucky country’ is selfish, 09 June, ABC The Drum, Sydney

Pickering, H 2014, G20 Brisbane: $100m to protect world leaders, 12 November, Brisbane Times, Brisbane

Pickering, H 2014, Terminology Twist: From Failed States to Fragile States, 1 July, The Strategist, Canberra


Teaching Assistant in the Public Governance Institute, KU Leuven, Belgium

(2021) B-KUL-S0A74A Policy Analysis

(2019-20) B-KUL-S0B54A Comparative Public Policy in Europe

Teaching Assistant at the University of Melbourne, Australia

(2017–18) POLS20008 Public Policy Making

(2017–18) POLS20023 Comparative Politics

(2018) POLS20026 Politics and the Media

(2015–17) INST10001 International Politics