Chapter Three: The Panel’s Response
In response to Recommendation 11 of the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service and its consultations across the APS and Government, the Panel has developed specific products to support and strengthen the APS and Ministerial partnership. These practical products bolster the proper administration of current and future governments.
The three products are:
- A Strengthening Partnerships SES Learning Program
- Guidance papers on four commonly identified key topics
- An online Strengthening Partnerships toolkit
Strengthening Partnerships SES Learning Program
The Panel has worked with the APS Academy to develop the Strengthening Partnerships SES Learning Program.
The Program aims to increase understanding about the respective roles of Ministerial offices and the APS.
The Program targets SES Officers. The Panel has informed the Program’s content, which reflects consistent themes heard during consultations.
The Program comprises four facilitated sessions:
- The Operating Environment
- Working Effectively with the Minister’s Office
- Effectively Supporting the Minister
- Building and Maintaining the Partnership
The sessions build the capability of the participants and ask them to consider how they will educate and build the capability of their teams. This enhances the impact of the Program across the APS, appropriate to the senior leadership role of participants.
The Program is delivered by a facilitator and experienced practitioners. The Program is designed in line with APS Academy learning principles and, importantly, is practitioner led. Panel Members have contributed their expertise to the development of case studies and content. Other practitioners include current or former Secretaries, current SES officers with relevant experience and current and former Ministerial staff. Former Ministers may also be approached.
After completing the Program, participants can be expected to clearly understand the operating environment and roles and responsibilities, including intersections and interdependencies; how to engage early, regularly and respectfully with the Minister’s office without compromising integrity; understand the lived experience of Ministers and their offices and adjust their engagement accordingly; and ultimately, view and approach these relationships as a partnership.
The first round of the Program took place on 19 and 26 November 2021. Feedback received to date has been overwhelmingly positive. The APS Academy will monitor the roll out and look for opportunities to deliver the Program more broadly in 2022.
The Panel, in consultation with the APSC, has refreshed and consolidated detailed guidance promoting sound management of the Ministerial and APS partnership. The Panel’s guidance papers provide principles on key aspects of Ministerial and APS engagement.
The Panel recognises that many departments have established processes for managing relationships with Ministerial offices and does not purport to tell departments or Ministerial offices how to conduct their business. Rather, the intention is to provide accessible guiding principles for reference and to promote a more consistent approach across government.
The guidance builds on, modernises and amalgamates existing resources in four papers:
- Ministerial Transitions
- The Operating Environment of a Ministerial Office
- Working with Ministers
- Principles for Departmental Liaison Officers
The Panel selected these topics following consultations, which revealed them as the most critical, and often the most misunderstood, aspects of the system.
The papers are designed for both APS employees and Ministerial staff to promote shared understanding and consistency across the system.
The four papers are at Appendix A.
Strengthening Partnerships Toolkit
Recognising that guidance is only as useful as it is easy to access, the Panel has asked the APSC to establish a Strengthening Partnerships website. The website will act as a ‘toolkit’, and provide a central repository of relevant published resources to educate and support both the APS and Ministerial offices in their respective roles.
The online toolkit will include links to relevant sites and resources, which will ensure it remains current. This includes the Caretaker Conventions, The Cabinet Handbook and Guidance on the Budget and New Policy Proposals. The Panel’s guidance papers, and any future resources, will also be published on the website.