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Vote of thanks

In response to the Prime Minister's address to the Institute of Public Administration Australia

Mr Peter Woolcott AO - Australian Public Service Commissioner

Please view the video of the event here.

On behalf of all of us here today, and all members of the Australian Public Service, I would like to thank you Prime Minister for speaking to us directly about your vision for the APS.

I would also like to thank you for your vote of confidence in the work of the APS and its people.

But you have also set a high bar for us in ensuring that we implement the Government’s policy agenda and meet the expectations of the Australian people. 

The Australian public service is full of committed and talented people who joined to make a difference. Both here in Canberra and in state capitals and regional centres right across Australia. 

Every day the APS deals with complex issues — whether it’s an individual Australian interacting with the Tax Office or a whole-of-government team responding to a natural disaster. 

And every day I know that thousands of public servants are striving to make Government services more accessible and more efficient for the people of Australia.

Because the people of Australia are why we are here, and they are why we do what we do.

The fundamental purpose of Government is to keep the Australian people safe and to keep Australia prosperous. Government establishes laws and regulations. It provides services that the private sector cannot or would not provide.  It is good government and a professional APS which makes the bad things less likely to occur and the good things more likely to happen. 

The public service is vast and we touch upon every aspect of the lives of Australians. This is a great responsibility and one we must carry out with integrity and professionalism.

Prime Minister, you mentioned some of the work that’s already being done to streamline services and make life easier for Australians, whether they’re a military veteran who needs support or an international traveller coming home after a long flight.

You are right to say there is much more to do.

We know that the public service in 10 years’ time is going to look different to the public service today – because society is changing, expectations are changing and technology is galloping at pace.

The APS needs to evolve to ensure that we are always ready to deliver what the Australian people expect of us.

We need to be flexible and able to share ideas, resources and accountability. The issues we are facing are increasingly complex and interconnected. We need a public service that deals effectively with issues that cut across silos and old patterns of work.  We need to attract, develop and leverage the different skills, knowledge, experiences and networks that individual employees bring to their work and we need to have a public service that is outward facing and more porous. 

A great deal of hard work on public sector reform has been done by the Secretaries Reform Committee and the Independent Review of the APS by David Thodey in order to ensure that we can meet the challenges ahead. The thinking around necessary change has, in itself, been hugely important. And there is much reform we simply need to get on with. 

Prime Minister you have made clear that what the Government and the public want from the APS is an unwavering focus on effective implementation, on ensuring a fit for purpose regulatory environment, as well as the provision of the soundest of advice. 

I am pleased, Prime Minister, that we can continue to support your government in these endeavours. And I thank you again for sharing your thoughts with us today.

Before I end, I’d also like to thank Martin Parkinson and congratulate you, Martin, on an outstanding career in service to Australia.

You have been front and centre of many of this country’s greatest economic challenges and reforms and your contribution will be greatly missed.

On behalf of the APS, I wish you great health and happiness in whatever you choose to do next.

Thank you. 

Last reviewed: 
30 August 2019