What’s behind the Public Service Shake Up?
Make no mistake the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, had no time to lose when it came to implementing his public services shake up. His political advisers were picking up that the ‘quiet Australians were getting increasingly cranky at the Government’s lack of action. This was obvious in the farmers’ protests outside Parliament last week. It was also evident in the reaction of the disability sector to the implementation of the NDIS and the Government’s $437 million response to the interim report of the aged care Royal Commission.
In a nutshell, the problem is that the Government is making announcements about things like drought assistance but the people that are ment to be getting the assistance are not seeing results on the ground. There is a bottleneck in the implementation and the Government wants it fixed.
The solutions have to be identified by March if they are to be incorporated in the May budget which is why the public service changes had to be implemented now. The new public service structure is designed to be action oriented and achieve results sooner rather than later. The new secretaries have been chosen because they have been hands on operators.
On Thursday the Prime Minister announced that five secretaries would lose their jobs when the changes were implemented in February 2020. Further changes to the public service will be announced this week.
The restructure shocked the heads of the public service. Communications and the Arts secretary Mike Mrdak, who lost his job, told staff he wasn’t made aware of the changes until Wednesday afternoon. Human Services head Renée Leon told News journalists she didn’t find out until Thursday morning.
As of February 1, Mrdak and Leon will finish up in their current roles, as will Agriculture secretary Daryl Quinlivan, Industry, Innovation and Science secretary Heather Smith, and Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business secretary Kerri Hartland..
Former APS secretary Andrew Metcalfe — who was sacked by Tony Abbott in 2013 because he couldn’t get on with his minister Barnaby Joyce— will lead the Department of Agriculture, which will take on policy related to Water and the Environment..
Morrison said the shrinking of the number of departments was “to ensure the services that Australians rely on are delivered more efficiently and effectively”.
“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,” 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.”
According to Michelle Grattan, writing in ‘The Conversation’ on Thursday former Public Services Commissioner, Andrew Podger, has mixed feelings about the reforms.
“The main potential benefit of fewer and larger departments is to make cabinet work better, with a smaller cabinet, and with portfolio ministers given more latitude to make decisions (and allocate resources) drawing on their junior ministers.
"If this does not happen, and more departments have two cabinet ministers, that will cause more problems, not fewer ones, particularly for the secretaries giving advice”, Podger told Grattan.