It is a long held tradition of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA) to invite speakers to address the Fellow's Colloquium as part of the annual symposium, with an aim to spark discussion and debate on a controversial and contemporary topic. In 2010 the debate was focused on the question of whether there had been a degradation of the professional capacity of the Australian Public Service (APS) with regard to effective policy development and implementation. The contributions of each of the four panel members are reproduced here, in part, and they reflect the diverse perspectives which informed a robust and compelling debate. Janine O'Flynn, the editor of these contributions, argues that any claim of degradation is based on rumour rather than hard evidence, and she sets out how we might think about policy capacity from a public sector management perspective. Sue Vardon, the former CEO of Centrelink and the architect of a transformation change program which redefined the delivery of public services in Australia, reflects on the strengths of the APS, but points out the current stresses that it now finds itself under. Anna Yeatman, an expert in political theory and its application to citizenship and public policy, argues that in the last twenty years we have witnessed degradation in the work of government and that this has impacted on policy capacity. Lyn Carson, an expert in deliberative democracy, points to the unrealised capacity that could come from increasing citizen involvement. Policy capacity is degraded, she argues, because we have systems that are neither deliberative nor representative. Individually these contributions spark their own controversies; together they ask us to consider the question in different ways.