ANZSOG’s recommendations for the future of the public service

Workshop participants listening in a lecture theatre
  • Published Date: 01 August 2018

ANZSOG has released its submission to the Thodey Review of the Australian Public Service, making a number of recommendations for the future the Australian Public Service.

The ANZSOG submission calls for the APS to take advantage of the growth of data, better recognise the role of states, not-for-profits and the private sector in service delivery, and change its understanding of integrity. 

ANZSOG Dean and CEO Ken Smith said that that all governments were facing increasing challenges and needed to think strategically about what they needed for the future.

“New skills are required to manage digital transformation, disruptive innovation, demographic diversity, loss of trust, and the rise of anti-expert, anti-evidence, and populist movements,” he said.

DOWNLOAD:  pdf ANZSOG submission to the APS Review (3.15 MB)

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull commissioned the review, asking Mr Thodey’s panel to produce “an ambitious program of transformational reforms to ensure the APS is fit-for-purpose for the coming decades, and to guide and accelerate future reform activities”.

Everything from the public service’s “capability, culture and operating model” to performance measurement, cost-effectiveness and its “architecture and governing legislation” will be examined, in the broadest APS review in a generation. 

The ANZSOG submission outlined nine priority areas for the APS Review to consider, based on how ANZSOG sees the future needs of the public service.

These are:

  • Recognising the significant role of the non-profit and private sector in service delivery requires greater capability for commissioning and contracting, and attention to the capability of these counterpart organisations.
  • Providing access to systematic and ongoing targeted research to support innovation.
  • Delivering high quality policy advice through an assessment of policy capability, and developing ways to better use research and collaboration for policy advice.
  • Acting with integrity to strengthen public trust, through an institution-first approach to integrity.
  • Leading effective organisations, through prioritising appropriate leadership for effectiveness rather than simply relying on ongoing structural change.
  • Working across the Federation, through attention to the interfaces between jurisdictions and the responsibilities of each level of government.
  • Strengthening Indigenous leadership in the APS, by building the status of Indigenous public servants and the capability of the APS to engage with Indigenous communities and other jurisdictions/organisations.
  • Creating greater public value through innovation, drawing on research and new learning and development methods.
  • Making better use of data, recognising the potential of digital transformation and  technical and strategic challenges.

Professor Smith placed particular emphasis on integrity, and the importance of moving beyond a rule-based approach that focused on the absence of corruption, to one that focused primarily on the integrity of institutions.

“Integrity is critical for building public trust. Unfortunately, agencies often seek to build integrity through a narrow rule-based regime. Integrity is fundamentally an institutional attribute that shapes the behavior of individuals.”

Professor Smith said that the APS needed to ensure it had the skills and ability to continue to operate in an intergovernmental environment, and focus on facilitating competitive and collaborative federalism.

“This will require a continuing focus on which level of government is best placed to plan and deliver services to diverse communities. We have seen a few successes, but unfortunately many failures, particularly relating to insufficient focus on implementation issues,” he said.

ANZSOG’s submission also calls for the APS to improve its ability to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, overcome the ‘deficit frame’ that shapes policy, and incorporate Indigenous knowledge and culture into policy.

Mr Thodey has been joined by former Environment Department secretary Gordon de Brouwer, University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis, Coca-Cola Amatil managing director Alison Watkins, ANZ’s digital banking boss Maile Carnegie and University of Sydney chancellor Belinda Hutchinson to conduct the review.

The panel has a broad remit to make recommendations about the future of the APS, and Mr Thodey has said it will provide ‘fearless and independent advice’.

Their final report is expected to be handed down by the end of 2019.