Labor to rebuild a ‘seriously eroded’ Australian Public Service: Gallagher

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Labor has vowed to rebuild the Australian Public Service into a model employer that is better able to provide frank and fearless advice to Government.

If elected, Labor would do this by removing staffing and employment condition caps and ending an “excessive reliance and waste of public funds” on consultants, contractors and labour hire companies.

In an election commitment outlined Friday, the Labor promised major reforms to the Australian Public Service (APS) after “complete disinterest” from the Coalition, which had “mothballed” recommendations from a major 2019 review.

ACT Senator Katy Gallagher. Image: Katy Gallagher/Twitter

Labor again committed to abolishing the controversial staffing cap introduced by the Abbott government, which continues to limit the number of people an agency or department can employ each year.

Labor would also conduct an audit of APS employment with a view to improving conditions and job security, including converting labour hire, casual or contract roles into ongoing APS jobs.

The current “no enhancements” clause in the APS bargaining policy which limits any enhancement to employment conditions to exceptional circumstance and requires ministerial approval would also be ditched, as would wage caps and pegging policies.

The changes would make the APS a more efficient and model employer, helping it bring much of the billions of dollars’ worth of contract work back in-house, Labor said.

Shadow finance and public service minister Katy Gallagher announced the latest policy in a Canberra Times piece Friday, writing the APS should be “a model employer that sets the standard which the private sector follows” and needs to be restored as an institution.

“Leadership, capacity and capability have been so seriously eroded that even core functions like basic policy development are now routinely outsourced to the private sector, to the extent that some agencies no longer retain policy capacity at all,” she wrote.

“Expensive outsourcing costing billions of dollars, arbitrary staffing caps, wages caps and pegging policies, as well as inflexible bargaining rules with ‘no enhancement; policies, have denied APS workers the right to seek improvements for improved performance and outcomes.”

Ms Gallagher has been uncovering more information about consultancy contracts through the Senate and has warned of a “privatisation-by-stealth” of the APS after much of the work was revealed to be for core department functions.

Labor has also pledged to clean up contract reporting by government agencies and departments to gain a better understanding of how much work is being outsourced.

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1 Comment
  1. Stephen S 2 years ago

    If they are at all serious, start at the top, where four should go immediately: Pezzullo, Campbell, Gaetjens, Murphy.

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