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Part 1: Overview

Commissioner’s review

Peter Woolcott AO

Australian Public Service Commissioner

The Australian Public Service Commission holds a crucial role within the Australian Public Service (APS). We aim to position the APS workforce for the future by being a valued, credible and trusted partner to the rest of the public service.

The APS is undergoing unprecedented change. There are complex factors behind this including the increasing complexity of issues, the speed of technological change and the expectations of the public. The Government has made clear that it wants the APS to focus on effective delivery, tangible outcomes that make a difference to our country and its future, and a much more people-centric approach. We also need to anticipate the Government’s response to the Independent Review of the APS. What this means is that the Commission will continue to play a central and expanding role in ensuring the good governance of the APS and Australia.

In 2018–19, the Commission initiated a range of strategic and operational improvements to prepare for these challenges, including a restructure of the agency to strengthen and better organise our business model. Establishing more cohesive arrangements internally has been crucial, both as to how we work together, and as to how we work with the rest of the APS.

To better understand the Commission’s ability to meet current and future challenges, I commissioned an independent capability review of the Commission, led by David Tune AO. The capability review has recently been completed and was extraordinarily valuable in testing the Commission’s progress and preparedness. It provided an independent perspective of strengths, capability gaps and areas for future focus. 

I am pleased that this review affirmed that the Commission has a dedicated and highly engaged workforce with deep technical expertise and a track record of delivering activities that are highly valued across the Service. There is, however, work to do in ensuring the culture of the organisation is more outward facing and agile if we are to build on these strengths.

The review also acknowledged the challenges of the Commission’s current funding model and proposed an approach to develop a more sustainable revenue base in collaboration across the service. 
I am supportive of exploring opportunities over the next financial year to reduce administrative burden while improving the impact of the Commission’s activities across the Service. 

We need to position the APS for the next quarter century and the Commission’s current areas of focus are leadership, mobility and integrity.

Strong leadership is critical to APS performance and is a key driver in managing change and driving performance. This leadership is exercised at a range of levels in the APS. APS agencies have provided feedback that priority areas for the development of our leaders is around resilience and change management. This feedback recognises the rapidly changing context in which the APS operates. 

Additionally, the development of soft skills is vital for senior officials. The Commission is playing a key role in supporting this work. A large number of APS senior leaders are now going through capability and talent assessments to assist us in developing them for current and future roles. And we’ve continued to deliver high quality leadership courses for APS managers at all levels.

This year, I also amended the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2016 (the Directions) to enhance performance management within the APS. The amendments to the Directions hold all APS employees accountable for upholding the APS employment principle that requires effective performance from every employee.

We saw again this year an increase in the response rate to the APS employee census, a result that reflects the importance that agencies place on receiving feedback from their employees. The Commission will publicly release its census results at the time of the publication of the State of Service report as a way of promoting both transparency and accountability.

On a more system wide basis, the APS employee census is just one avenue the Commission utilises to recommend improvements on key employment matters such as recruitment, separation and mobility. 

Mobility in the public sector is important. The APS must be more permeable and mobile in order to foster diversity of thinking, the contestability of ideas and assist in capability development. In December 2018, I was pleased that the Secretaries Board supported administrative changes to Senior Executive Service (SES) recruitment practices to provide me, as the Australian Public Service Commissioner, with greater visibility of SES movement and capability. 

As the Australian Public Service Commissioner, I have a statutory responsibility to uphold the integrity and values of the APS. Integrity should be the embodiment of who we are as public servants. Integrity underpins how we engage with the public, with each other and the Government. It should be at the forefront of our mind in our everyday work.

In 2018–19, the Commission observed an increased demand from APS agencies for ethics awareness support. With a more mobile workforce, moving in and out of the public sector, we need to ensure that our focus on integrity remains strong. 

This year the Commission conducted the Values Evaluation Survey with a representative sample of APS employees. Survey data indicated that 86 per cent of employees perceived their agency always expected full compliance with the APS Values. Other survey results identified a number of strengths and areas of potential improvements in relation to the APS Values. These results will form the basis for the Commission’s future work with agencies to enhance employees’ understanding of their professional obligations. 

As you will see in this 2018–19 Annual Report, over the past year we have laid the groundwork for some important work happening now. A whole-of-APS workforce strategy is being developed. A new professional employment model will be another important move towards developing career pathways within the public service. I am also pleased that the Commission is continuing to actively engaging with countries in our region to support strong public sectors, as well as looking at best practice examples from across the world. 

2018–19 signified my first full year as the Australian Public Service Commissioner. I have been continually impressed by the professionalism of Commission staff and the way in which they respond to emerging challenges and opportunities. I am proud to be the Australian Public Service Commissioner and look forward to the contributions the Commission can make to an effective and trusted APS over the coming years.

Peter Woolcott AO

Australian Public Service Commissioner 

15 October 2019

At a Glance

Figure1: APSC at a glance

Figure 1: APSC at a glance

About the Commission

The Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) is a non-corporate Commonwealth agency within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. The Commission’s statutory responsibilities, which are detailed in the Public Service Act 1999 (the Act), include:

• developing, promoting, reviewing and evaluating Australian Public Service (APS) employment policies and practices;

• contributing to learning and development and career management;

• contributing to and fostering leadership in the APS;

• providing advice and assistance on public service matters to agencies; and

• promoting high standards of integrity and conduct in the APS.

The Commission supports two statutory office holders—the Australian Public Service Commissioner (the Commissioner) who is the agency head, and the Merit Protection Commissioner. Their functions are set out in sections 41 and 50 of the Act.

The Australian Public Service Commissioner makes staff available to assist the Merit Protection Commissioner in performing her prescribed functions. The Merit Protection Commissioner’s Annual Report follows the appendices to this report.

The Commission also provides secretariat support to the Remuneration Tribunal and the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal.

This report’s financial statements incorporate the activities of the Commissioner, the Merit Protection Commissioner and the two Tribunals.

The Minister

During 2018–19 the Minister changed from the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Minister for Women and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, to Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance and the Public Service. The current Minister, as of 29 May 2019, is the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Cabinet.


At 30 June 2019, the Commission had an average staffing level (ASL) of 200 employees. 

Organisational structure 

Figure 2: Organisational structure at 30 June 2019

Figure 2: Organisational structure at 30 June 2019

Executive Leadership Team

Mr Peter Woolcott AO Australian Public Service CommissionerMr Peter Woolcott AO

Australian Public Service Commissioner 

Mr Peter Woolcott AO commenced as the Commissioner on 9 August 2018. Mr Woolcott has had a distinguished career in the Australian Public Service, serving in senior diplomatic positions around the world.

He has served as Australia’s High Commissioner to New Zealand (2016–2017), Ambassador for the Environment (2014–16), Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva and Ambassador for Disarmament (2010–2014), Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues (2009) and Ambassador to Italy (2004–2007).

Most recently he served as Chief of Staff to the former Prime Minister.

Mr Woolcott was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia in 2017 for his distinguished service to public administration in the field of international relations, and as a lead negotiator in the non-proliferation and arms control fields.

Ms Mary Wiley-Smith Deputy Australian Public Service CommissionerMs Mary Wiley-Smith

Deputy Australian Public Service Commissioner 

Ms Mary Wiley-Smith commenced as the Deputy Commissioner on 3 September 2018. Ms Wiley-Smith was previously First Assistant Secretary at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, working on the Independent Review of the APS.

Prior to joining the Review, Ms Wiley-Smith led the Cities Division in the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities—responsible for the pioneering of ‘city deals’ in Australia.

Ms Wiley-Smith was previously the Chief Operating Officer for the Department of the Environment and Energy. She led the Strategic Review of the Department of the Environment, and also established its Sustainability, Policy and Analysis Division.

Ms Wiley-Smith has over 25 years in the APS and has a breadth of experience in building workforce capability and driving reform. She has held senior executive roles in the Australian Government leading work on sustainability, climate change, cities and urban policy, energy efficiency, housing affordability and supply, and renewable energy.

Mr Richard Bartlett First Assistant Public Service CommissionerMr Richard Bartlett

First Assistant Public Service Commissioner 

Before joining the Commission, Mr Richard Bartlett was First Assistant Secretary, Social Policy Division at the Department of Finance. In this role, Mr Bartlett provided policy and finance advice to government on families, health, housing, community services, Indigenous affairs, aged care, veterans’ affairs and government service delivery.

Prior to this, Mr Bartlett held various senior roles at the Department of Finance, including First Assistant Secretary of Industry, Education and Infrastructure Division and First Assistant Secretary of Efficiency, Assurance and Digital Government Division. In these roles, Mr Bartlett provided policy and finance advice to government on education, energy, industry, transport and infrastructure, as well as driving public sector reform and digital transformation initiatives.

Mr Bartlett has also held a range of senior executive roles in the Australian Government at the Department of Health and at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. 


The Commissioner has powers and functions under the Act and subordinate legislation. The Commission provides policy advice to agencies on the Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1973, the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976, and the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987. 

The Remuneration Tribunal and the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal operate under separate enabling legislation.

Purpose, outcome and program structure

The purpose, planned outcome and corporate goals of the Commission are set out in the Commission’s 2018–19 Portfolio Budget Statements (available at www.pmc.gov.au) and the Commission’s Corporate Plan 2018–19 (available at www.apsc.gov.au).

The purpose of the Commission is to position the APS workforce for the future.

The Commission’s planned outcome is to increase awareness and adoption of best practice public administration by the APS through leadership, promotion, advice and professional development, drawing on research and evaluation (Outcome 1, 2018–19 Portfolio Budget Statements). The Commission works to achieve this through two programs:

• Program 1.1—Australian Public Service Commission

• Program 1.2—Judicial Office Holders’ Remuneration and Entitlements.

The Corporate Plan 2018–19 builds on and complements the 2018–19 Portfolio Budget Statements and identifies four corporate goals that reflect the priorities of Program 1.1:

• modernising the employment framework

• shaping the APS workforce

• building workforce capability, and

• promoting integrity.

Reporting on performance

During the 2018–19 financial year, the Commission worked to achieve its purpose, planned outcome and goals by meeting the commitments and performance measures as detailed in the 2018–19 Portfolio Budget Statements and the Corporate Plan 2018–19.

The annual performance statements detail the Commission’s achievements during 
the reporting year and the extent to which the Commission’s performance measures 
were met.

The close links between the 2018–19 Portfolio Budget Statements and the Corporate Plan 2018–19 mean that some of the Commission’s performance measures are reflected in both documents. The performance statements identify the source of each performance measure by publication and page number.

Funding and financial performance

The Commission’s activities are funded through a combination of appropriation, MOU and fee-for-service revenue. Revenue is generated through the sale of leadership programs, learning and development courses, employment services and international capacity building programs funded through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Much of this revenue is earned in a competitive market in which agencies choose the source and level of the services they purchase.

In 2018–19, the Commission received $21.3 million in departmental appropriation funding and $22.5 million in fee-for-service and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) revenue.

The operating result for 2018–19 was a deficit of $2.4 million. This result includes the effects of the government’s net cash funding arrangement, whereby depreciation expenses are no longer funded by an appropriation; and the impairment of software. Excluding these factors, the Commission delivered a balanced underlying operating result, through careful management of financial resources.

Payments of $4.1 million were made from the special appropriation for the Judicial Office Holders’ Remuneration and Entitlements administered program.

Departmental expenses were $2.2 million higher than the budget estimate as a result of additional fee-for-service income generating activities, and the impairment of software. Administered expenses were $0.1 million lower than the budget estimate.

Table 1 summarises the Commission’s financial performance for 2018–19. It should be read in conjunction with Table A2 (see Appendix A).

Table 1: The APSC’s financial performance summary, 2018–19


Budget estimate ($ million)

Actual result ($ million)


Program 1.1—Australian Public Service Commission



Total departmental




Program 1.2—Judicial Office Holders’ Remuneration, Allowances and Entitlements



Total administered



Total for Outcome 1