ServicesAus gets a structural facelift

Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

Services Australia will be up and running as an executive agency rather than a department from February next year, and the Department of Communications has been rolled in with Infrastructure as part of a major shake-up of the public service.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the reforms on Thursday, which will see the number of departments reduced from 18 to 14, on Thursday, the last Parliamentary sitting day of the year.

In the announcement, Mr Morrison confirmed that Services Australia will take the place of the Department of Human Services as an executive agency within the Department of Social Services, and will be up and running from February next year.

ServicesAus gets a structural facelift

The Department of Communications has also been scrapped as an independent entity, with a new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development to be established.

The innovation title has also been removed from the departmental list, with another merger to create the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

Five departmental secretaries have lost their jobs as part of the major changes, including communications and the arts’ Mike Mrdak, industry, innovation and science’s Heather Smith, human service’s Renee Leon and employment’s Kerri Hartland.

Current secretary of the Department of Environment and Energy David Fredericks will be taking on the head role at the new Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

All the changes will take effect when Parliament returns in February next year.

The reforms are in line with the Thodey review of the public sector, and are part of the Coalition’s “reform agenda to put Australians at the centre of government”, Mr Morrison said.

“Australians should be able to access simple and reliable services, designed around their needs. Having fewer departments will allow us to bust bureaucratic congestion, improve decision-making and ultimately deliver better services for the Australian people,” Mr Morrison said.

“The new structure will drive greater collaboration on important policy challenges. For example, better integrating the government’s education and skills agenda and ensuring Australians living in regional areas can access the infrastructure and services they need.”

There will be no changes to ministerial portfolios as part of the restructure, the Prime Minister confirmed.

Services Australia was announced by Mr Morrison following the May election and will see the government “fundamentally reimagining the way we deliver services to Australians”, Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said.

The Hoffman-led taskforce delivered a strategic report to government on the transformation of the Department of Human Services into Services Australia, with a clear list of deliverables over the next five years.

Seven streams of work have now been launched, with many working in tandem with the private sector. These are operating in “agile” 90-day sprint cycles, with Mr Roberts being provided with fortnightly updates.

These streams include the re-imagining of future government shopfronts, designing customer-centric suites of digital services and transforming the agency’s back-end.

“We are embarking on one of the largest programs of reform undertaken in this country to deliver a world-leading customer experience for Australians,” Mr Robert said last month.

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