10 January 2023

2022 Year in Review: Public sector

| Kim Treasure
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It’s been quite a year in the public sector, with talk of booze bans in Parliament House, leave procedures coming under scrutiny and the idea of a four-day working week raised again.

Take a look at what has made the headlines in 2022.

12. Proposal to ban booze and late sittings at Parliament House
by Chris Johnson

Parliament House

Could ending late sessions and banning alcohol at Parliament House improve working conditions? Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Federal Parliament would stop sitting at 6:30 pm and stop serving alcohol under one proposed regime aimed at curtailing intimidation and sexual harassment against junior female staff.

At the very least, alcohol should not be consumed inside ministerial or MPs’ offices, according to the plan.

11. ASIO boss says openness is key to the spy agency doing its job
by Ian Bushnell

ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess

Director-General Mike Burgess: “People won’t work for an agency if they don’t know what it does and what it values.” Photo: ASIO.

For the boss of a secretive organisation, Mike Burgess is surprisingly big on transparency.

The ASIO Director-General spelled this out in his annual threat assessment statement. He stressed the importance of telling the public what his staff achieves and the values that guide them as he pitched for new talent to join the agency.

10. Public service classifications to remain untouched, for now
by Chris Johnson

APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott

APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott will act on many of the review’s findings, but classifications will remain unchanged. Photo: APSC.

Sweeping changes to Australian Public Service employment classifications will not be happening anytime soon, despite an independent panel’s strong recommendation.

Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott has released the much anticipated APS Hierarchy and Classification Review, saying he will act on many of its findings but will not change classifications at this stage.

9. Take a look at what the Tax Office’s new digs will look like
by Ian Bushnell

New Tax Office

An artist’s impression of the proposed building to house the Australian Taxation Office. Photos: BVN.

The new Tax Office in Barton is going to be state-of-the-art. Check out what $119 million will get you.

8. How a four-day week might work for the ACT’s public service
by Ian Bushnell

ACT Government Public Service building

The ACT Government Public Service building in Civic: a four-day week would be an enormous change. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Moving to a four-day week would be costly and technically challenging for the ACT Public Service to implement but could improve its ability to attract and retain staff, as well as boost productivity through a better work-life balance, according to an ACT Government submission to a Legislative Assembly inquiry.

The submission to the Future of the Working Week Inquiry also says that, if adopted, the shorter working week would establish Canberra as one of the most progressive cities in the world.

7. Tributes flow for defence strategy giant
by Ian Bushnell

Professor Brendan Sargeant

Professor Brendan Sargeant: “A giant of the University, of Canberra and of the nation.” Photo: ANU.

Canberra’s defence establishment and the Australian National University are mourning the loss of one of its leading strategic thinkers, Professor Brendan Sargeant, who died in a swimming accident.

Professor Sargeant was the Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC) in the ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. He also had a celebrated career with the Department of Defence.

6. APS workplace negotiations to exclude some employees
by Chris Johnson

Australian Government building. Australian Public Service Commission. Bureau of Meteorology.

Australian Public Service Commission. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher has decided bureaucracy-wide bargaining with employers will only apply to Australian Public Service (APS) agencies.

This means other public servants such as parliamentary staff, the Australian Federal Police and those employed in the Federal Government’s various intelligence agencies and some other entities will be excluded from the new bargaining regime.

5. Home Truths: Realities of the housing market in a public service town
by Chris Johnson

aerial view of Canberra homes

The comings and goings of the APS have an impact on Canberra housing. Photo: File.

Australian Public Service employees have always had an impact on the Canberra housing market – both sales and rentals – because so many of them live and work in the capital.

Depending on individual contracts and employment status, durations in the ACT vary from fleeting short-stays to lengthy permanency.

4. Commonwealth Superannuation: how a one-off decision can change your life
by Karyn Starmer

Australian Government building

The decisions you make about superannuation today can have lifelong implications. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Uttering the words ‘superannuation’ and then watching people’s eyes glaze over is a common experience for anyone in the finance industry. Superannuation hardly satisfies anything on the reward scale. Hidden, untouchable and associated with reams of fine print, it’s no wonder it sits way down on the ‘later’ list.

Add in the complexity of the differences between public sector superannuation schemes and almost everyone has tuned out. But superannuation and the choices you make around claiming your super are the key to how well you live your post-work life.

3. Government to force all APS staff to take national holidays on observed days
by Ian Bushnell


Australia Day is one of three public holidays that APS staff will have to take on the observed day. Photo: Supplied.

Commonwealth public servants will have to take three key national holidays, including Australia Day, on the observed date and not substitute them for another day off, after a new circular was issued by the Federal Government.

The move provoked controversy, limiting the options of those who may not wish to mark these days for cultural or reasons of personal belief and flying in the face of workplace trends.

2. How agencies are dropping the ball on staff leave
by Ian Bushnell

Dept of Finance

Finance was the only entity that had established systems to record additional hours worked by Executive Level employees to track accrual and use of time off in lieu. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The Commonwealth Auditor-General has found plenty of non-compliance in its report into the management of staff leave in the Australian Public Service.

While the report found overall that the 10 entities examined had developed policies to administer leave, apart from Aboriginal Hostels Ltd (AHL), all at some point – including big agencies such as the Tax Office, Finance and Services Australia – fell short in making sure staff stuck to the rules.

1. Services Australia lays off hundreds of contractors before Christmas
by Chris Johnson

government building

More than 1000 Services Australia contractors have lost their jobs. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

It’s going to be a tough festive season for the hundreds of contractors who have fallen foul of government cost-cutting measures.

Notices of termination have already been issued to hundreds of contractors, mostly highly paid ICT specialists, as the Federal Government begins the rollout of its cost-cutting on the massive consultancy spend in the Australian Public Service.

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