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Part 2: About the department

DIICCSRTE's mission is to support the ongoing transformation of the Australian economy by driving productivity, enhancing the skills base and harnessing innovation. This mission guides the department in working towards a smart, productive, innovative and globally competitive economy.

The department acknowledges that the current environment in Australia is one of ongoing structural change with many businesses having to make major adjustments to their business models. Similarly the department has and continues to experience its own structural change through a range of Machinery of
Government (MoG) and ministerial changes.

The department presently manages a number of high-profile issues and delivers complex programs and services through several flagship brands such as AusIndustry, Commercialisation Australia, Enterprise Connect, the National Measurement Institute, Questacon and Skills Connect. Program funds are allocated
through some 10 500 agreements and contracts, while the department maintains client relations with some 19 000 businesses across the country. Each year the department typically provides more than 4000 services to small and medium enterprises through Enterprise Connect, supports around 25 000 clients
through the Small Business Support Line, and sees close to half a million people through its doors at Questacon. In 2011–12 the department administered more than $2.7 billion of income support through youth allowance to more than 270 000 recipients and supported 1.5 million students enrolled in
Australian Government subsidised places in the vocational education training (VET) system through national agreement and national partnerships programs.

In 2007, science and research functions were added to the department while tourism, energy and resource functions were transferred out. This new department—the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR)—became the core for a range of activities and functions that would
be added to the department over the coming years.

In 2010, the department also took responsibility for trade measurement when the Australian Government took over the management of weights and measurements from the states and territories. That same year, the Australian Astronomical Observatory joined the department having previously been an independently
operated entity funded by the Australian and British governments.

In December 2011, the department saw the addition of approximately 1000 staff with the movement of the Tertiary, Skills and International cluster from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). Dr Don Russell, who was appointed Secretary of the department in 2011, at that
time stated that the merger provided the department with the opportunity to build a new focus on driving collaboration between the education, research and industry sectors and 'making the whole bigger than the sum of its parts'.

Further change followed when in March 2013 the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency was abolished and its climate change functions were transferred to the department bringing more than 450 staff and more than 20 additional programs or areas of policy focus.

In summary, since 2007 the department has almost doubled its staff from 2090 to 3941 employees, increased from 10 divisions to 23 and quadrupled its budget from $4.3 billion to $18.4 billion through administered funds (including special appropriations and accounts) and departmental expenses. Most of
this growth has occurred in the last two years.

It is therefore understandable that the department has experienced some challenges. For example, staff effectively needed to be brought together under the existing DIISR enterprise agreement. In doing so the department needed to maintain the salary levels of ex-Climate Change and DEEWR staff who historically
were among the highest paid of the Australian Public Service (APS), while transitioning them onto a new lower pay point structure. Staff are also located across 85 locations with seven premises in Canberra alone, working from different information and communication technology (ICT) platforms and relying
on corporate processes often designed for a much smaller organisation.

Despite these challenges, the department has had some significant achievements over the past two years:

  • Assisting industry to turn innovative ideas into commercially successful products and businesses through support from programs such as Commercialisation Australia.
  • Improving the overall efficiency, profitability and market reach of firms through support from Enterprise Connect and AusIndustry.
  • Developing the national research investment plan in collaboration with stakeholders.
  • Reforming the vocational and tertiary education sectors to improve the quality of teaching and infrastructure.
  • Implementing an emissions trading scheme and linking it with the European emissions trading system.

The profile of the DIICCSRTE workforce is typical of a large policy/program agency within the APS. Key differences, however, include a median age of 41 years which is slightly older than that of the broader APS and almost three out of four staff having less than five years' experience in the department,
which is significantly less than most comparable departments or agencies.

The department is overseen by the Secretary, Associate Secretary and three deputy secretaries. Few staff are employed at the lower end of the APS classification with 43% of non-SES staff employed at Executive Level 1 and 2, which is similar to comparable departments and agencies.

Notably 73% of departmental staff are based in the Australian Capital Territory with two-thirds of the remaining 27% in New South Wales or Victoria and almost all based in a capital city or major regional centre.

The Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education portfolio has nine statutory agencies along with the offices of Chief Scientist and Small Business Commissioner. For some of these agencies, and two offices, the department provides support; as it does for a number of
other quasi-independent agencies operating under the Financial Management Act.

DIICCSRTE reports to five ministers and two parliamentary secretaries.