Anthony Albanese believes his predecessor Scott Morrison undermined the Australian Public Service to a seriously shocking degree and much work is needed to repair the damage.
Speaking at the National Press Club on Monday (29 August) to mark his first 100 days in office, the Prime Minister said the former Coalition government led by Mr Morrison disrespected the public service and disregarded much of its advice.
“I think the independence and processes of the public service were undermined over a long period of time,” he said.
“I’ve been somewhat surprised because some of the detail isn’t known until you’re in government.”
The PM said “good professional public servants” were laid off during the tenure of the last government and then re-employed as contractors on higher wages.
The issue of contractors to the Australian Public Service became a campaign issue for Labor during this year’s federal election.
Now in government, the Prime Minister remains committed to saving taxpayers’ money by reducing the number of contractors and boosting actual public sector jobs.
He claimed the former government didn’t care about taxpayers’ money or proper process.
“That whole process undermined the public service. The truth is that cabinet processes under the former government were completely trashed,” Mr Albanese said.
“Cabinet isn’t for Powerpoint presentations from pollsters. It’s for serious consideration of policy based upon advice from the public service.”
The Prime Minister said he was talking to a former departmental secretary directly before his press club address who raised those issues with him.
“I think that it will take time to rebuild but we are doing that. I met with the secretary of all the departments of the public service,” Mr Albanese said.
“Every one of my ministers has gone to their department and had meetings, not with the secretary and dep secs and the executive, with all of the public service who are there.
“I have met with all the workers at various agencies, including our intelligence agencies, and that’s been really well received.
“Guess what, who knew if you treat your workers with respect, you’ll get better outputs?
“It’s not rocket science. That was ignored by the former government. But it will take time to repair.”
My Public Sector
The PM then turned his remarks directly to public servants watching the televised address.
“And if there’s people out there who are watching this right now, I would say: being a public servant is an honourable profession,” he said.
“Think about it. People who are public servants don’t do it for the money; most of them could earn more in the private sector.
“They do it out of their commitment to public service. I think that we need to get back to that.
“My government, through the actions of the ministry, are trying to do that. And that’s important because it’s in our national interest for that to happen.”
Mr Morrison criticised the public service repeatedly during the election campaign, saying his government made decisions and not “some public servant in Canberra”.