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State of the Service Report 2010-11: APS improving its capability but continuing to face challenges

Media release

Stephen Sedgwick, the Australian Public Service Commissioner, announced that ‘the State of the Service Report 2010–11, tabled in parliament today, provides an important insight into the human capital strategies that the Australian Public Service needs to adopt to build workforce capability for the future’.

He said that the 1.2% growth in the Australian Public Service (APS) this year was the smallest increase since 2003–04. There continues to be a shift to a more qualified and experienced workforce and a higher proportion of employees accessing the flexibility of part-time work, and often returning to the workforce after retirement. Women now account for 57.6% of total employment.

The ageing of the Australian Public Service workforce poses significant workforce planning and succession management challenges. Employees aged 45 years and over, who will be eligible for retirement in the next 10 years, now account for 43.7% of ongoing employees.

This year’s report indicates that agencies are having difficulty recruiting and retaining skills in the areas of information and communications technology, accounting/finance and human resources, highlighting the need for more systematic workforce planning. This year, 26% of agencies reported having a documented workforce plan in place and 20% of agencies had developed a talent management strategy.

Mr Sedgwick said that ‘the key message from this year’s report is that there has been a significant amount of work in the last year or so to improve the workforce capability of the Australian Public Service and its capacity to design, deliver and implement the government’s policy agenda’.

He also noted that a number of measures have been taken in recent years to strengthen the ethics infrastructure of the APS. However, he went on to say that ‘the evidence to date is that the APS is remarkably free from malpractice or corruption, with scant evidence [in this report] of systemic or serious corruption’.

The report also highlights an issue that has attracted attention recently about the relationship between Public Service Act employees and members of non-government parties. The Commissioner notes that some commentators argue that it may be in the interest of good government for APS employees to interact with non-government MPs outside of the relevant guidelines. Mr Sedgwick said that ‘this is not a view I share. The position of statutory officers is more complex, however.’

Mr Sedgwick also addressed the role of public servants in public forums, noting that public servants have traditionally assisted Ministers to explain policy in a way that doesn’t involve them in party politics. He notes that calls for more involvement of public servants in public debate needs to be addressed cautiously. 

The Commissioner commented that ‘it is fair to say that the Australian Public Service has responded well to the opportunities in this challenging environment. Nonetheless an institution this complex and diverse always has options to improve performance; and some current challenges will take time to fully address’.

Copies of the State of the Service Report 2010–11 are available on the Australian Public Service Commission’s website: www.apsc.gov.au.

Contact Officer: David Schmidtchen
Group Manager, Human Capital Research and Evaluation
Tel: 02 6202 3707 or Email: david.schmidtchen [at] apsc.gov.au

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018