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Commissioner's review


John Lloyd PSM
Australian Public Service Commissioner

The Public Service Act 1999 emphasises four key notions that the Australian Public Service (APS) should exhibit—efficiency, effectiveness, professionalism and impartiality.

The long 2016 election campaign was an important event during 2015–16. Once again the APS operated with a high degree of professionalism during the government's caretaker period. The impartiality of the APS was beyond question. The Australian community has come to expect nothing less.

Public administration, reflecting societal trends, is grappling with the challenges of more complex issues, rapid change and disruption to accepted practices. APS leaders embrace the need to refresh and reform to meet the challenges.

A program of functional and contestability reviews commenced. The base purpose of the reviews is to ensure that the APS is structured to meet the challenges and that the most efficient method of delivering functions is deployed.

The Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) conducted a contestability review of APS workforce management practices. The review made 27 recommendations about how to modernise the APS and ensure it was responsive to government needs. The review made recommendations in the areas of recruitment, mobility, talent management, performance and human resource strategy. The Commission, in collaboration with agencies, is implementing the review's recommendations.

The APS is looked upon to provide leadership in some areas of employment management. It discharges this responsibility with imagination. Innovative employment strategies are being implemented for people with disability and Indigenous Australians and to achieve gender balance.

In other areas of employment management the APS must be cognisant of community standards. It should neither lead nor lag. The public sector bargaining policy is grounded in this position and represents a responsible stance. The Commission is assisting agencies to reach enterprise agreements that will enable more productive workplaces. It is disappointing that public sector unions have continued to oppose the making of flexible employment agreements that serve the interests of both employers and employees.

Data about employment characteristics and trends is important for assessing the current state of the APS and planning future strategies. The Commission assembles a large dataset. The most significant is the annual employee census. A staggering 95,000 employees responded to the last census. We are continuously revising how we use and share this data. It is the foundation data for the annual State of the Service Report. Also, we now release more of the data to agencies earlier and to the community to stimulate conversations about contemporary employment issues.

In so many areas, as I move around the APS, I see people giving exemplary public service. Employees are committed to their jobs and seek to excel in their pursuits. This reflects an embedded commitment to service, as strong today as in earlier years.

The Commission has focused on enabling agencies and their employees to build on their strengths and grow their capabilities. We have turned more to advising and engaging and less to compliance. We seek to achieve this through contemporary approaches that recognise the importance of data, learning on the job, sensible regulation, diversity, innovation and questioning of traditional solutions. We are always mindful that more than 60 per cent of APS employees work outside Canberra.

The year 2015–16 has been one of managing change and addressing how we position for the future. It will be necessary to be more proficient at trialling innovative solutions and managing complex projects. The Commission will continue to be resolute in supporting an APS that is efficient, effective, professional and impartial.