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PM rejects call for return to core pay and conditions in united public service

Ian Bushnell 14 December 2019 21
Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the government has accepted most of the Thodey Review’s recommendations but those to do with staffing, pay and conditions have been rejected. Photo: File.

More outside recruitment and partnerships, a return to common pay and conditions, and an accelerated take-up of digital technology are part of the prescription for an Australian Public Service that may not be broken but is in need of serious repair, according to the Thodey Review released on Friday (13 December).

It has made 40 recommendations, most of which Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the government has accepted, instructing the Secretaries Board, led by the Secretary of PM&C and supported by the Australian Public Service Commissioner, to lead the reform effort beginning with a “rapid planning phase’ over the next few months at a cost of $15 million.

The review calls for a more united, flexible and flatter public service with greater collaboration across agencies, agile teams and a move back toward common core conditions and pay scales over time to reduce complexity and improve efficiency, but this last recommendation has been rejected.

It says the APS lacks a clear unified purpose and is too internally focused.

“There has been long-running under-investment in the APS’s people, capital and digital capability, while siloed approaches, rigid hierarchies and bureaucratic rules create barriers to effective delivery,” the review says. “APS leaders do not always act as a unified team. Most of all, the APS is not changing fast enough to meet government expectations and deliver for Australians in a changing world.”

It says at least $100 million a year in dedicated funding is required to kick-start the transformation and at least $1 billion a year is needed to support better services and outcomes through digital transformation and to sustainably fund other public capital.

This need not be new funding, with the review identifying savings, re-allocations and the efficiency dividend as ways to pay for the reforms.

However, the public sector union says the Prime Minister has already rejected key recommendations in his recent announcement to slash the number of departments.

The CPSU welcomed the review’s findings on staffing, pay and conditions, and funding.

National Secretary CPSU Melissa Donnelly said the Government received the report months ago but had flaunted its disregard for it just last week by slashing departments and creating mega-departments.

“What we have seen today is the government’s own report join the many calls to lift the Average Staffing Level Cap and fix the broken public sector funding model. This is but one of many recommendations the Morrison Government has rejected,” she said

”It’s time for the government to invest in the services it keeps promising Australians.”

Labor’s public service spokesperson Senator Katy Gallagher said the government’s response was weak and non-committal – fully agreeing to just 15 of the 40 recommendations and providing a miserly $15.1m to ‘initiate reform’.

She said the true colours of this government were on full display when they have rejected important recommendations which call for:

  • Abolition of the ASL (staffing cap) after implementing a new workforce strategy (rec 19)
  • Moving to common pay and conditions for public servants (rec33)
  • Improvements in integrity and transparency (rec 7, rec 30, rec 38, rec 39a)
  • Working more closely with the States and Territories (rec 12)
  • Robust processes to govern the termination of secretaries’ appointments (rec 39c).

“Today marks a a major missed opportunity to modernise the APS and ensure it is properly equipped to deliver for Australian into the future,” she said.

In what will be seen as a red flag to journalists and other concerned about government secrecy, the review says materials prepared by the APS to “inform deliberative processes of government” should be exempted from release under FOI laws, so the APS can advise the Government “freely and robustly”.

The review says the APS is behind the curve when it comes to the use of digital technology and needs to catch up with the rest of society in adoption and skills so it can deliver better services and release staff to customer service roles.

It says the APS needs to look outward more, recruiting more employees from outside the service to broaden experience and perspectives, and working with more external partners – “going beyond traditional participants (and beyond Canberra) … to provide ministers with a range of perspectives and the on-the-ground experiences of all Australians”.

The review proposes a Charter of Partnerships, developed with APS partners, to help achieve this.


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21 Responses to PM rejects call for return to core pay and conditions in united public service
Roger Mungummary Roger Mungummary 10:51 pm 15 Dec 19

It's ok ScuMo reads it as slash services sack officers then farm the work out and more cost to companies that contribute to the LNP

John Moulis John Moulis 4:20 pm 15 Dec 19

And the Canberra Bubble keeps rolling...

Steve Wood Steve Wood 4:04 pm 15 Dec 19

The worst thing to ever impliment in the PS was individual pay bargaining not to mention the cost. BorderForce and Immigration merge is the classic example... the amount of cost associates with having to manage multi pay systems must be high.. the only way to do it is to take the median wage of the current levels and wage freeze at the top until the bottom section catch up or a total restructure of the APS1-6 And EL1-2. This will be costly...

Tim Hutch Tim Hutch 8:27 am 15 Dec 19

Maybe more outside recruitment would assist in changing the slow, unproductive, and bullying culture of the public service. If some of them worked in the private sector they would be surprised at what they would be expected to achieve.

    Anna Ryan Anna Ryan 6:37 am 16 Dec 19

    Tim Hutch I’ve worked in private sectors, not for profits and public service. The two positions I’ve held in the public service in different areas and have been the most productive and understaffed. People are working hard and quite often they forgo breaks if it’s busy and need to get things done.

Margus von Tihemetsa Margus von Tihemetsa 10:11 pm 14 Dec 19

My recommendation would be to outsource everything digital related to eGovernment to Estonia.

    Rick Jackson Rick Jackson 10:28 pm 14 Dec 19

    Margus von Tihemetsa - just to set up a model based on the Estonian system...

    But, I could only imagine the populous screaming over a big brother government that knows too much!

    Margus von Tihemetsa Margus von Tihemetsa 10:29 pm 14 Dec 19

    Spot on! That's exactly what's happening.

Christopher Mawbey Christopher Mawbey 9:16 pm 14 Dec 19

Try And get rid of the self righteous bullys while your at it.

Jenny McCurley Jenny McCurley 7:36 pm 14 Dec 19

yes wasting more money

Sue Skinner Sue Skinner 6:21 pm 14 Dec 19

Can we have this translated for non public sector folk???

    Kerenza Brown Kerenza Brown 10:03 pm 14 Dec 19

    Sue Skinner we might get some IT upgrades that are closer to the 21st century.......🤣😂 Maybe......?!

    Margus von Tihemetsa Margus von Tihemetsa 10:08 pm 14 Dec 19

    Sue, exactly my thought. I've worked within the public sector both as a contractor and a consultant for over 10 years and I still didn't understand a thing they are talking about.

    Prue McKay Prue McKay 8:53 pm 15 Dec 19

    What don't you understand?

    The public service needs more people in it, every agency needs to be on the same pay and conditions (which they haven't been since the Howard years) and serious attention needs to be paid to the IT needs of the agencies.

Pam Perkins Pam Perkins 6:05 pm 14 Dec 19

can someone translate this for me please

    Rick Jackson Rick Jackson 8:07 pm 14 Dec 19

    Pam Perkins - the Govt spent a whole heap of money for an independent review of the public service.

    Among those recommendations were to remove the staffing caps (departments are limited to x number of staff) and make a consistent agreement (different agencies have different pay amounts and conditions).

    The idea is, with staffing caps removed, agencies can hire permanent staff rather than expensive contractors who have a tendency to move and a consistent agreement will encourage staff to move between departments as well as cut overheads on managing separate agreements.

    The govt decided to not take the recommendation that they paid for and instead are combining departments to create ‘mega departments’... that will rely on contacting and work on different pay scales.

    Only time will tell if it works or not, but it is odd that they are ignoring the recommendations of their own consultancy.

    Pam Perkins Pam Perkins 8:30 pm 14 Dec 19

    Rick Jackson thank you very much makes a lot more sense 👍🙏

    Neenie Baines Neenie Baines 2:11 pm 15 Dec 19

    Rick Jackson don’t they always ignore all findings? He certainly must have ignored his empathy consultant as well, given his frequency of inept responses to natural disaster and victims.

Lou CF Lou CF 6:05 pm 14 Dec 19

Really? but they have not acted on the Banking royal commission findings. Convenient

    Ben Mott Ben Mott 9:01 pm 14 Dec 19

    Louise funny that.

    Boweavil Kat Boweavil Kat 5:58 am 15 Dec 19

    Louise Flood but they are acting on the royal commission into child sexual abuse with the religious anti descrimination bill.

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