25 August 2022

Machinery of Government changes not yet completed leaving some agency teams empty

| Chris Johnson
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Treasury Building

Seven weeks after the MoG and many teams still lack the staff to do the work they’ve been tasked with. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Machinery of Government changes for the Australian Public Service came into effect on 1 July, but seven weeks later, it’s hardly a case of all systems go.

Staffing levels, personnel and the makeup of teams remain uncertainties for many departments, with some APS managers expressing frustration at what they are having to cope with while waiting for greater staffing certainty.

“I don’t even know who’s in my team yet,” one APS manager told Region.

“I have no budget. When do people arrive?”

Another manager said they still had “no idea” who was in their team.

And another told Region: “I need people to help me out. They’re not here and I don’t know when they will be. It is making it hard to deliver on expected outcomes. So frustrating.”

Transfers between departments are still being processed in many instances. Making matters even more complicated is the competitive environment agencies find themselves in due to the current “employees job market”.

Compounding the problem even further for some agencies is there has been a greater focus on labelling teams rather than supplying them with good people.

Programs are now called “cohorts” in some departments, leaving staff bewildered and wondering why filling roles is not the number one priority.

A spokesperson for the Australian Public Service Commission said agencies are expected to work together to implement the MoG changes, including identifying staff who will be transferred.

“Once agreed, the Commission authorises the movement of employees from one entity to another (through a determination under section 72 of the Public Service Act 1999). The Commission provides advice to agencies on the Act to support the process,” the spokesperson said.

“Machinery of Government changes are a normal feature of the Australian Public Service. The Commission is not aware of frustrations. A key principle outlined in the Department of Finance guidance on Machinery of Government changes is that changes must be implemented in a manner that ensures ‘continuity of government business’. As such, a focus is to continue to deliver for the Australian people during such changes.”

According to the Commission, departments are working through the changes outlined in the Administrative Arrangements Order issued on 1 June 2022 and are being progressed in accordance with the Machinery of Government guidance issued by the Department of Finance and the Australian Public Service Commission.

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“This took effect on 1 July 2022. The transition process is outlined in the Department of Finance guidance on Machinery of Government Changes,” the spokesperson said.

“Questions about how this will be implemented in individual agencies are better directed to those agencies.”

Career strategist Sue Parker of DARE Group Australia suggested there remains an element of unconscious bias when employers are seeking new staff. She said this could be contributing to the current public sector team delays.

“Despite all the programs, commissions, affirmative action and legislations, ageism, racism, sexism and all other iterations of bias is alive and kicking,” Ms Parker said.

“Sure, it is not quite as overt, but prejudices are hard to shift. After all, ego can be at stake in recalibrating attitudes. No sector, vocation, tier of government or agency is exempt.

“Misconceptions and stereotypes in decision making and hiring run amok internally and externally.

“Significantly, with the job vacancy levels and roles unfilled, it is critical in 2022 to conquer all hiring biases and prejudices. Far too many outstanding and talented people are left out of the recruitment mix and promotional opportunities.”

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