To: Dylan Welch, Journalist, ABC News
From: Australian Public Service Commission
I refer to your article titled “Public service workers say government offices ‘ignoring’ coronavirus advice”, published on 25 March 2020.
It is inaccurate to report that ‘the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) told the ABC it would not allow department or agencies to respond for themselves’. The APSC did not make this statement, nor can such an inference be drawn from the APSC’s response to your questions yesterday.
These are extraordinary times. A time where the Australian Public Service has to shine and must deliver essential services to the Australian public. Given where we are at, our focus is on employees’ health and wellbeing, and importantly the delivery of public services. All agencies are expected to adhere to social distancing principles and follow advice from the Department of Health, while ensuring they can continue to operate.
As explained in the media response, the APS Chief Operating Officers (COO) Committee is coordinating the APS operational response to COVID-19. APS agencies are working closely together and sharing information and resources during the impact of COVID-19. The Australian Public Service Commission is supporting the work of the COO Committee, including by responding to media enquiries on behalf of the APS. It is sensible and logical for the APSC to do so on behalf of the APS when the same questions are being put to a range of agencies about whole of service issues.
There is no APS-wide directive that employees should work from home, or from their usual workplaces. Whether employees work in their usual office environment, a different office environment, or from home, will be a matter for each APS agency depending on functions and operational requirements.
We know that all agencies are testing their remote working capability, and making other arrangements such as minimising face to face meetings, placing notices in meeting rooms about suggested maximum capacity, and restructuring teams to ensure contingencies are available.
The Government considers the Australian Public Service to be an essential service which needs to keep working in order to keep Australians safe, and ensure that services are delivered for the Australian people. We can provide the support our community needs, but it is going to require the contribution of the entire APS. Every public servant who can work, should work.