Integrity and transparency key to functioning public service

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Assistant Minister for the Public Service

The most entrenched problems in public policy and democracy can take very little time to create.

They might start with someone secretly swearing themselves into a portfolio or five.

Or a significant Centrelink debt being automatically, incorrectly created.

Or deciding that a high-risk government contract should be awarded without due diligence.

Or even deciding that a certain piece of public service work could just as easily be done by a contractor, rather than a public servant.

All of these decisions can happen in mere minutes. However, the time it takes to fix these problems is, sadly, much, much longer.

Regaining the trust of the Australian people in our key democratic institutions, once it has been lost, is hard.

Take the recently released Richardson report, which detailed dodgy procurement decisions made by the Department of Home Affairs under Peter Dutton’s watch. The report’s recommendations call on the Department of Home Affairs to seek to improve its organisational culture around risk management and risk capability.

Organisational and cultural change is slow and difficult, but it is important.

The Albanese Government is committed to reforming the Australian public service. We are ambitious about this, and we know it will not be easy. The Albanese Government is determined to restore the APS and position it for the future. We are open about the reforms we are making to the service. Reforms that are needed and are delivering results.

Over the past year, we have taken important steps to strengthen APS integrity and transparency.

A new National Anti-Corruption Commission began operations in July, fulfilling an election commitment by the Albanese Government.

We have improved protections for public sector whistleblowers, and work on a second stage of reforms are under way.

And the Government has agreed, or agreed in principle, to all 56 recommendations of the robodebt royal commission and is investing in implementing them.

I am very pleased that even in the face of challenges, levels of employee engagement in the Australian public service are high. In the 2023 APS employee census, about three in four APS employees expressed job satisfaction (73 per cent) and that that their work gave them a sense of accomplishment (76 per cent). And we know there are things public service agencies can do to build on this.

They can actively promote an inclusive workplace culture and show they care about employee health and wellbeing. And they can communicate well internally and encourage and support staff to come up with better ways of doing things.

As part of our Government’s efforts to communicate more effectively, respectfully and transparently with the APS, we are hitting the road. The state of the service roadshow started in Perth last week and will travel all around the country, from west to east. It is communicating face-to-face the results of the state of the service report with the public servants at the centre of this cultural change.

Importantly, it is a chance, too, for the Government to hear directly from Australian public servants about the issues that they face.

It was my great pleasure to launch the roadshows here in WA. Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre welcomed 400 public servants, and representatives from 58 agencies, reflecting on the past, the present and the future of the public service.

We will make those hard changes together and collectively rise to the challenge of uplifting and reforming our APS because Australians and the APS deserve more than a quick fix, they deserve real reform.

Patrick Gorman is the Federal Member for Perth, the Assistant Minister for the Public Service and the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister.

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