5 January 2024

APS back in full swing working on the Budget

| Chris Johnson
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Jim Chalmers in Parliament

Jim Chalmers delivering the 2023-24 Budget: work is well underway preparing for this year’s Budget. Photo: Screenshot.

Public servants who have returned to work after the short Christmas shutdown are already neck-deep in preparations for this year’s federal Budget.

While it seems all of Canberra’s at the coast, including plenty of Australian Public Service employees, the Budget cycle means those who are back in the office have no time to mull around the water cooler.

And working from home is just as demanding this time of year.

In fact, the APS was kept extremely busy right up until Christmas preparing cabinet submissions and costings for the May Budget.

That work continues full throttle following the Christmas break.

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Region has spoken to numerous senior-level APS employees back at work this week to gauge the level of activity.

With the assurance of anonymity, many have detailed the level of their workloads.

“We’re flat out. We always are at this time of year,” one said.

“The whole public service is in full Budget preparations mode. We were like that – very busy – right before the end-of-year shutdown, and we’re like that very much so already again now.”

“We’re drowning in Budget submissions,” said another.

And another made a comparison to the APS’s political masters, pointing to the fact many MPs and ministers are still on leave.

“It’s a short summer for us. The shutdown is over and we are very busy,” they said.

“The politicians are still on beaches or overseas, but they will expect our submissions to be fully prepared and up to date for them when they return.”

One very senior public servant explained how policy reform is shaping the work and demanding extra attention and effort.

“This government is big on reform and we are seeing that at play across most agencies,” they said.

“I would think in almost every policy area, reform is being pushed. It is certainly the case in my department and that is really shaping our work.

“Labor is demanding big things from the public service and while much of the push is in good directions, some of it is a bit hit and miss.

“They just need to be seen to be active as a government and that means our work takes on a very intense focus.

“Cabinet submissions are all-consuming for most public servants and definitely for all agencies.”

READ ALSO 2023 Year in Review: Public sector

Almost immediately after a federal Budget is handed down in May each year, public servants get to work on the next one.

That work intensifies over the last six months of the Budget year, which begins peaking just before Christmas and even more so after the shutdown.

“There will be no respite for us now until the Budget,” one public servant told Region.

“The work on submissions keeps escalating and then there are reviews and resubmits almost right up to when the Budget is delivered.

“Preparing for a Budget is not just the domain of Treasury and the Finance Department. It’s the whole APS, and right now, it’s relentless.

“But it is also interesting work – to work on submissions that go before cabinet for consideration. There is great value in what we’re doing because we’re working on programs and policies for the nation.

“It’s quite exciting at times, but yes, there is plenty of the mundane as well.

“All of it is solid work that won’t let up on us. We are very busy.”

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Feel sorry for those people. Toiling away, presenting the papers, and who knows, they may be ditched ala Kevin Rudd style

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