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Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration

Membership, terms of reference and background information

The Royal Commission was under the chairmanship of Dr HC Coombs. Other members of the Commission were:

  • Mr PH Bailey, a Deputy Secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Professor Enid Campbell, Sir Isaac Isaacs Professor of Law at Monash University
  • The Hon. JE Isaac, a Deputy President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission
  • Mr PR Munro, Secretary of the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations.

The terms of reference of the Commission were as follows:

To inquire into and report upon the administrative organisation and services of the Australian Government and in particular—

  1. the purpose, functions, organisation and management of Australian Government Departments, statutory corporations and other authorities and the principal instruments of co-ordination of Australian Government administration and policy; and
  2. the structure and management of the Australian Public Service, and to make recommendations for improving efficiency, economy, adaptability and industrial relations and the despatch of public business; and, without restricting the scope of the inquiry, to give particular attention to the following matters:
    1. the appropriate role of ministerial departments, statutory corporations and other authorities;
    2. relationship of the Australian Public Service and statutory corporations and other authorities with the Parliament, Ministers and the community;
    3. parliamentary scrutiny and control of administration;
    4. responsibility and accountability of public servants, and their participation in forming policy and making decisions;
    5. adequacy of the machinery available to assess the relevance and economy of existing programs in meeting government objectives;
    6. the extent to which central management of the Australian Public Service is necessary, and internal control and co-ordination in that Service, especially the functions of the Public Service Board, the Auditor-General and the Treasury;
    7. centralization, decentralization and delegation of functions;
    8. the principles applicable to staffing of statutory corporations and other authorities;
    9. personnel policies and practices, including eligibility, recruitment, selection, appointment, tenure, training (especially management training), promotion, classification, discipline, morale and conditions of service of members of the Australian Public Service, both generally and in relation to particular classes of persons;
    10. the determination of salaries, wages and other conditions of service of persons in the service of the Australian Government, including those serving overseas;
    11. the rights of public servants as citizens; and
    12. any other matters to which the attention of the Commission is particularly directed by the Prime Minister and in the course of the inquiry.

The Commission was not intended to make special inquiry into, or special reference to, matters relating to postal and telecommunications services (already then the subject of review by the Vernon Commission of Inquiry into the Australian Post Office), and matters relating to superannuation, also then under separate examination.

In announcing the appointment of the Royal Commission the Prime Minister said it was anticipated that the Commission would report within two years of its appointment.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018