Services Australia sputtered to life on Thursday, not as an artful clone of the highly successful NSW delivery agency Service NSW, but as a simply re-named Department of Human Services in which the Digital Transformation Agency has been absorbed.
Administrative Arrangement Orders for the new Coalition government, released on Wednesday afternoon, revealed that Services Australia is a re-badged Human Services, rather than a new agency.
It is not clear whether the DTA is retained as an agency within the Services Australia portfolio, or whether it has been consumed as a division. By late yesterday, the DTA was still seeking clarification.
The new Services Australia department has been given responsibility for “whole of government service delivery policy”, “whole of government information and communications technology” and “information and communications technology procurement policy and services” – and so the question remains about the DTA.
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Services Australia would replicate the Service NSW model, the Coalition instead went for a minimalist structure by renaming the department, rather than creating a new, independent agency within the Human Services portfolio.
“Services Australia will pick up its lead from a similar organisation established by the NSW government called Services NSW, which I think has been a very important reform in NSW and made dealing with government much easier,” Mr Morrison said earlier this week.
“It’s also about driving better use of information technology and apps that can assist Australians to better access services they need.”
But while Service NSW is a digital-first agency with its own CEO, sitting within the state Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, offering online services and shopfronts where people can use government services, Services Australia is just an existing department in government.
Services Australia will be overseen by new Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert, a cabinet position.
The DTA has previously fallen in the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio, but will now be in Services Australia’s remit.
The future of the agency is unclear, and there is yet to be an announcement on whether it will continue to act as an independent agency or have its role subsumed by the newly named department.
The Department of Human Services has overseen the introduction of the myGov online portal, and is also playing a prominent role in the on-going development of the government’s digital identity project, GovPass.