18 May 2021

PM announces review of Public Service

| Ian Bushnell
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The Australian Public Service is in for a shake-up.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that the Government has commissioned an independent review of the Australian Public Service, to be led by former CEO of Telstra and current chair of CSIRO, David Thodey.

Mr Turnbull said the review, essentially to modernise the Public Service, was prompted by a range of global, technological and public policy developments that were transforming the Australian economy and society, presenting both opportunities and challenges.

“The public sector has a critical role in this context. Our APS must be apolitical, professional and efficient. It needs to drive policy and implementation, using technology and data to deliver for the Australian community,” he said.

“Many of the fundamentals of Australia’s public sector in 2018 reflect the outcomes of a Royal Commission held back in the mid-1970s. It is therefore timely to examine the capability, culture and operating model of the APS, to ensure it is equipped to engage with the key policy, service delivery and regulatory issues of the day.”

The Prime Minister said this meant the Public Service attracted and retained people with the appropriate skills and capabilities to fulfil its functions.

Mr Thodey will be joined on the review panel by Maile Carnegie (Group Executive Digital Banking at ANZ), Professor Glyn Davis AC (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne), Dr Gordon de Brouwer PSM (former Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Energy), Belinda Hutchinson AM (Chancellor of the University of Sydney) and Alison Watkins (Group Managing Director of Coca-Cola Amatil).

The panel will consult widely, both within and outside the public service, and will be supported by a secretariat in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“This review is an excellent opportunity to ensure the APS is fit-for-purpose in the years and decades ahead. We look forward to receiving the panel’s report in 2019,” Mr Turbull said.

According to the terms of reference, the review will examine the capability, culture and operating model of the APS, and make practical recommendations on:

  • driving innovation and productivity in the economy
  • delivering high quality policy advice, regulatory oversight, programs and services
  • tackling complex, multi-sectoral challenges in collaboration with the community, business and citizens
  • ensuring our domestic, foreign, trade and security interests are coordinated and well managed
  • improving citizens’ experience of government and delivering fair outcomes for them
  • acquiring and maintaining the necessary skills and expertise to fulfil its responsibilities.

The review will consider the suitability of the APS’s architecture and governing legislation, and consider how the APS monitors and measures performance, and how it ensures the transparent and most effective use of taxpayers’ money in delivering outcomes.

It will focus on all Departments of State and any entity which engages staff under the Public Service Act 1999 (Cth). Parliamentary departments are not within the scope of the review.

The review will examine leading domestic and international public and private sector practice, and consider reform activities already under way across government, particularly the work of the APS Secretaries Board. It will also examine and draw upon previous reviews.

The panel will consult widely, both within and outside the APS, including with an advisory group of current Commonwealth ministers and a reference group of eminent individuals with a diverse range of domestic and international, public and private sector expertise.

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HiddenDragon5:28 pm 08 May 18

This may turn out to be a case of history repeating itself – the previous PM named Malcolm commissioned a similar review, which reported about six weeks before he lost power.

justin heywood11:03 am 08 May 18

And why not? The Australian public invest billions into their public ‘service’, with patchy results. A few points to consider:

Talent. The current system selects for the type of employee that can navigate the usually nebulous ‘selection criteria’, where meaningless verbiage is seemingly more important than proven ability. Once in, if you decide to stay, you WILL be promoted, regardless of talent.
All systems are imperfect, but in the private sector, ability is more often the reason for promotion.

Experience – relates to the above, but too many in the public sector are ‘lifers’, with no private sector experience. There is an anti-business mindset in some sections of the APS, and a failure to understand that business ultimately pays the bills.

Digital – with few exceptions, public government websites are clunky and confusing. I doubt that the cause is lack of resources – it often seems that the websites are designed by and for people already within the system, not for the public who is trying to find information.

Capital Retro2:59 pm 07 May 18

“The panel will consult widely……”

Sort of says it all, doesn’t it?

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