When David Thodey speaks, the public service listens.
And so it was on Friday when the man who led 2019’s independent and comprehensive review of the Australian Public Service delivered a keynote address to the Governance Institute of Australia.
In a speech titled ‘The Future Australian public service — an employer of choice’, Mr Thodey championed the sector, as well as the Federal Government ministers most closely responsible for it.
The imperative for the APS was to be adaptable, agile and accountable, and have capable leadership, he said.
The impact of emerging technologies on the workforce, and making sure the sector remained fit-for-purpose into the future also featured prominently in his comments.
But by far, Mr Thodey’s strongest take-home message was that the public service should be a sought-after career and one to be proud of.
“People work for places they enjoy being and they feel like they make a difference,” he said.
“The public service should be that place. What incredible influence you have, what incredible people you have and I think we need to celebrate the public service.
“People want to be paid fairly, but they don’t stay in their role just because of money. It’s often in terms of job satisfaction.
“However, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if it’s way out of line, they will leave.”
Mr Thodey said the Australian Public Service Commission was on the right track implementing its new strategy, which leans heavily on the recommendations of his independent review.
And he described Finance and Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher and Treasurer Jim Chalmers as ministers with the right attitude that has already helped to lift the morale and performance within the APS.
Insisting that the public sector is more complicated than the private sector, Mr Thodey called for greater collaboration between the public sector and academia, saying a good public servant needs to understand different perspectives.
And he cautioned agencies to be vigilant over the threat of cyberattacks and be conscious of data being held and if it was necessary.
In 2018, then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull launched an independent review of the whole APS and appointed Mr Thodey as its chair.
The review panel was tasked with recommending “an ambitious program of transformational reforms to ensure the APS is fit-for-purpose for the coming decades, and to guide and accelerate future reform activities” and it was completed in September 2019.
Thodey’s review included 40 recommendations, 15 of which the government fully agreed to and 20 it agreed to in part. Two recommendations were merely noted, while three were rejected.
Mr Thodey is the former chief executive officer of Telstra and the current chairman of accounting software company Xero.
In 2017, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, for services to the telecommunications and information technology sectors and for the promotion of ethical leadership.