Time to look outside the Canberra bubble, PM tells public servants

Ian Bushnell 19 August 2019 142
Scott Morrison

Mr Morrison said his government will continue to set clear priorities and strong targets for the APS. Photo: Parliament of Australia website.

Public servants have been told to look outside the Canberra bubble so they can focus on the quiet Australians whose voices can be drowned out by lobbyists and interest groups, and win back their trust.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in an address to the Institute of Public Administration in the Great Hall at Parliament House on Monday also said the Australian Public Service needed to be more open to outside input, less hierarchical and focused on getting things done.

“I want the APS to have a laser-like focus on serving these quiet Australians. Those you don’t meet with and never hear from. Australians who just get on with it, but who often feel their voice gets drowned out by shoutier ones in our public square,” he said.

“There is strong evidence that the ‘trust deficit’ that has afflicted many Western democracies over recent years stems in part from a perception that politics is very responsive to those at the top and those at the bottom, but not so much to those in the middle.”

Reiterating his expectation that it is the Government and its Ministers that are responsible for policy, and the public servants for implementing it, Mr Morrison said the Public Service must be an enabler of policy not an obstacle.

“I’ve talked about the need for a culture of regulatory congestion busting in our bureaucracy,” he said. “That doesn’t mean cutting corners or not meeting regulatory obligations. But it does mean being relentless in finding ways to help Australians make things happen and reach their goals. Not sitting passively while families and businesses struggle to navigate rules and regulations.

“We need interactions with government to be simpler and less bureaucratic.”

Mr Morrison said he expected the Thodey review of the APS, which is due to be handed in in coming weeks, to address how the service needed to change to meet new and emerging challenges and be more innovative, agile and responsive to the public where they live.

Part of this will be drawing on knowledge and expertise from those outside the service, he said.

“To succeed, government needs to tap into insights, skills and energy from more points on the compass than those who have only ever worked in the public service,” Mr Morrison said.

“We need to find new ways for smart, dedicated Australians to make a contribution to public service, to see a stint in the public service as part of their career journey. And likewise for career public servants to see time outside of the APS in the non-government sector and in business as an important part of their career journey. The system should reinforce these choices.”

Mr Morrison said bureaucratic silos and hierarchies that constrained the Government’s capacity to fix problems needed to be broken down.

We need an APS that’s more joined-up internally and flexible in responding to challenges and opportunities,” he said.

He said diversity was important not just to reflect Australia’s more pluralistic society but also to include a range of viewpoints so problems can be solved and conformity avoided.

“It’s vital that the APS avoid the sort of stale conventional wisdoms and orthodoxies that can infuse all large organisations,” Mr Morrison said.

He was concerned that just over a quarter of the APS did not really feel they could make an impact.

“This is a failure of public service management to enable real engagement. This is one of the things I expect to see public service leaders change,” Mr Morrison said.

The Prime Minister said the Australian people need to be at the centre of APS service delivery, and he wanted public servants to be results-driven.

“My Government will continue to set clear priorities and strong targets for the APS,” he said. I have established a dedicated Priorities and Delivery Unit in PM&C and all Cabinet Ministers are developing their own set of objectives and targets.”

Mr Morrison said the Government’s goal was to have all government services available digitally by 2025.

“This is part of a broader transformation challenge that includes tailoring policies and service delivery to individuals and local communities and using data and analytics for better policy and service delivery,” he said.


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142 Responses to Time to look outside the Canberra bubble, PM tells public servants
Mary-Jane Taylor Mary-Jane Taylor 8:06 pm 23 Aug 19

It is just typical behaviour by Liberals. Cut public service jobs and create more poor people who can be exploited by their mates in big business or big houses (that is, the privileged). And save PS salary money so they can say what terrific financial managers they are. Meanwhile all the essential things public servants do either don’t get done, or get farmed out to the private sector at significantly increased expense to tax payers.

Ctl_Alt_Del Ctl_Alt_Del 8:45 am 23 Aug 19

Morrison is Bubble Boy. Typical LIB strategy, attack the PS and drain it of resources. Then claim it can’t deliver. Then privatise as much of it as they can.

dustytrail dustytrail 4:55 pm 21 Aug 19

Morrison is part of The Bubble but he doesn’t live here so what would he know about living in Canberra?

Joy Capper Barnard Joy Capper Barnard 11:45 pm 20 Aug 19

Endless opportunities to improve the public sector. Think Greenfield and continually ask 'Why Not'. Too much ownership of jobs, risk averse attitudes and fear of accountability. Aim for policy & Regulatory bodies and handover everything else relating to delivery if services to the market.

Karen Stratton Karen Stratton 4:55 pm 20 Aug 19

The only bubble is the FIFO pollies who fly business class or on a VIP to Canberra a few days a year, making ideological policy on the run, sans evidence, and then blame the APS!

Chris Inglis Chris Inglis 3:49 pm 20 Aug 19

Love it!!!

Demosthenes Demosthenes 12:14 pm 20 Aug 19

And that’s the price for three safe seats. No one gives a damn about Canberra and it’s an easy target.
Ironically, the Canberra Liberals are to blame for being unelectable.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:20 pm 20 Aug 19

    Most comments on this thread will perpetuate that situation and that’s exactly what Morrison wants.

    The Canberra Liberals are comfortable in opposition. The last thing they would want is winning government by default.

Mia Cliff Mia Cliff 10:28 am 20 Aug 19

Morrison is just electioneering at deviding people.

He is not a leader for all.

Leah Dwyer Leah Dwyer 7:40 am 20 Aug 19

How many public servants are getting wined and dined by lobbyists .. can’t actually be serious 🙄

Anne Develin Anne Develin 11:27 pm 19 Aug 19

Believe it or not some quiet Australians actually live in Canberra- which is Not a bubble! The bubble is in the ‘eye of the beholder.’...

Mel Mo Mel Mo 10:28 pm 19 Aug 19

The seat of power is Sydney and then Melbourne. What a joke. Maybe focus on policy.

Nick James Nick James 9:31 pm 19 Aug 19

It's true. The lobbyists on all sides rarely represent the average punter.

    Greg Burnett Greg Burnett 8:13 am 20 Aug 19

    Politicians rarely represent the average punter either.

Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 9:29 pm 19 Aug 19

Isn't it the politicians who are the ones taking advice from lobbyists?

Ann Chaplin Ann Chaplin 9:19 pm 19 Aug 19

Here’s an idea, don’t let the Ministers Office (any Minister) endlessly dictate to the APS eg, having a simple letter go up and down the chain then it gets to the Ministers office and comes back covered in yet more endless corrections. The APS is there to give the Government advice, the Ministers staffers, all aged under 35 and the life experience of a shopping trolley, are not there to dictate to career public servants who have been around the block quite a few times !!

Mazzie Woodward Mazzie Woodward 8:59 pm 19 Aug 19

Preach - love this so much and the reaction from the entrenched public servants and blinkered folk in Canberra only reinforces that he is right! Bring it on Scott Morrison (ScoMo) 👌

Karen Coleman Karen Coleman 8:52 pm 19 Aug 19

Umm isn't the public service to run the government?

Margaret Harley Margaret Harley 8:27 pm 19 Aug 19

Absolute garbage! We all know how the right wing would be happier without a public service!

Cath Brinkley Cath Brinkley 8:23 pm 19 Aug 19

He needs to bust out his white male rabid religious bubble and see how the real world works

Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 8:18 pm 19 Aug 19

The so-called Canberra bubble is created by Federal MPs.

Is the PM seriously suggesting that public servants ignore Federal MPs?

Chris McInerney Chris McInerney 8:01 pm 19 Aug 19

Needs to get out more I think.

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