APS reform and you
Professionals Australia’s Australian Government Group coordinates our union’s work across the Australian Public Service (APS). And there’s been a lot of it recently, as the government continuously restructures our work, outsources technical jobs and cuts funding. Change seems to be becoming the new normal for PA members in the APS, and rarely is it good news.
It’s been two months since the release of the Government’s response to an extensive independent review of the APS conducted by David Thodey and (apart from the MOG restructures creating new super departments like the new Agriculture, Water and the Environment) little has changed in the governments approach to managing the APS.
Professionals Australia members were pleased to finally be able to read the recommendations from David Thodey’ s review of the APS, many of which vindicated positions we’ve campaigned on for some time.
Thodey recommended that the APS should:
- Undertake regular capability reviews to build organisational capacity and accountability.
- Establish an APS professions model and a learning and development strategy to deepen capability and expertise.
- Improve mobility, support professional development, and forge strong linkages with other jurisdictions and sectors.
- Embed high-quality research and analysis and a culture of innovation and experimentation to underpin evidence-based policy and delivery.
- Move toward common core conditions and pay scales over time to reduce complexity, improve efficiency and enable the APS to be a united high-performing organisation.
- Deliver value for money and better outcomes through a new strategic, service-wide approach to using external providers.
- Government to abolish the Average Staffing Level rule.
No sooner was Thodey’s review released by the Government prior to Christmas, than the Prime Minister released his own response to the findings, with many of Thodey’s recommendations accepted. Alas, not unsurprisingly, the government rejected the key recommendations associated with the staffing cap, improving wages and conditions policy, and performing smarter contracting out of technical work – the key ones which fly in the face of the government’s current employment policies.
We’re now in a so-called ‘three-month sprint’ to plan the government’s implementation of the recommendations, being conducted by the Secretaries Board, the Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott and Director-General National Intelligence Nick Warner. Perhaps borrowing from the current turmoil in submarine policy, this planning group are running silent and running deep. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet have commented that action on recommendations should commence in May 2020, but scant further information is available indicating when this ‘planning phase’ may be complete and what actual steps will follow once it’s done.
Here’s what has happened so far:
- The government has allocated $15.1 million to help support the reform effort.
- PM&C has established an APS Reform Office to help drive the transformation.
- Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott has revealed that the reform will include a “comprehensive review” and “slimming down” of the APS classification structure.
- The report from Thodey has come under fire for being weak and non-specific, too often leaving work it should have done to others.
- In a bid to arrest the decline in trust in government, Commissioner Woolcott has announced training for all public servants that will “reinforce integrity across all APS business areas and functions”. (perhaps read that last one again)
In contrast to the vision set out in Thodey’s report; a roadmap to achieve a professional, highly skilled, evolved APS with enough internal capacity to do the jobs you’re charged with for the Australian people, the government has been creating a frame through its public commentary which seems to cast the APS as recalcitrant and out of touch with ‘real Australia’.
We know lots of members are feeling deflated, after being vindicated by Thodey and then so quickly re-cast as the problem by the Government. We want to turn the discussion over to you so that we can talk together about how this state of uncertainty is impacting you. Let us know how all of this is playing out in your department, how are people feeling? What’s the end point of all this restructuring and outsourcing, and what do you think needs to be done from here?
Follow the link below to our brand new, private online community for APS professionals.