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APSC News September 2015: fostering a flexible, efficient, high performing APS

Welcome to the September edition of the Commission’s newsletter. This month’s articles include an update on gender diversity and the recent issues concerning the Ashley Madison internet site.

There is also a summary of key points made by the Commissioner in his keynote presentation at the AHRI national convention in Melbourne last week, news about the Digital Academy and an article on workplace relations.

Gender diversity

There has been much research to show that diverse workforces drive innovation, creativity, and contribute to individual and organisational productivity. Gender diversity at the executive and senior executive levels has been an ongoing challenge for the APS. Show more

In 1999 women represented 50 per cent of ongoing APS employees. This parity was gained prior to 1999 for the APS 1 to APS 4 classification levels and in 2003 and 2005 for APS 5 and APS 6 levels. This year’s APS Statistical Bulletin will show that in 2015 the representation of women at the ongoing Executive Level 1 classification has reached parity with men.

The Bulletin will also show that during 2014 the representation rate for women in the Senior Executive Service levels reached 40 per cent. While this compares favourably with the private sector, we need to maintain momentum in this area.

The Bulletin will be released mid-September.

Contact: Pete Mitchell (pete.mitchell [at] apsc.gov.au)  Hide content

PC report on workplace relations

On 4 August 2015, the Productivity Commission released its draft report on workplace relations. A copy of the report can be found on the Productivity Commission website. Show more

The report makes 45 draft recommendations and seeks further information from interested parties in a number of areas. There are no specific recommendations in relation to public sector bargaining. However, the report provides some high level commentary about workplace relations in the public sector specifically, including the difficulty of measuring productivity in this area. The report notes that, since 2001, average annual wage growth has been 3.7 per cent in the public sector, compared to 3.4 per cent in the private sector.

The public sector section of the report also makes some observations about the difficulty in managing performance with a particular focus on the framework applying in the APS. In particular, the report suggests that removing detailed performance management processes from enterprise agreements may assist public sector employers to better manage underperformance.

There are draft recommendations in a number of other areas of potential interest to Commonwealth employers. There is some focus on reducing the compliance burden, with the report highlighting the Fair Work Commission’s lack of discretion to overlook procedural errors in approving enterprise agreements. The report recommends providing the Fair Work Commission with a broader discretion in this area. In the area of industrial action, the Productivity Commission is seeking views on options for simplifying the ballot process, and for allowing greater latitude for employers to make deductions for partial work bans.

The Commissioner is considering making a submission in response to the draft report .

Contact: Kerren Crosthwaite (kerren.crosthwaite [at] apsc.gov.au)  Hide content

Ashley Madison article

Recent reports in the media suggest that a number of Australian public servants have used their work email to register on the internet site known as Ashley Madison. Show more

It is clear that some of those reports have exaggerated the number of Australian Public Service employees involved in this activity. It is also likely that a number of the email addresses supplied to the website were fake ones.

Nonetheless, all public servants should remember their responsibilities to their agency and the Service as a whole. While most public servants can use their work email for some personal purposes, this usage must be consistent with the Code of Conduct and the policies that individual agencies have developed. Usage of a public service email account for this type of site is inappropriate.

Under the Code, employees of the Australian Public Service have strong responsibilities to uphold the reputation of the Service. Email and the internet are important tools that can help the public service function more efficiently. They should not be misused or abused by any public servant.

Contact: Paul Casimir (paul.casimir [at] apsc.gov.au)  Hide content

Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy

The Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy was approved by the Prime Minister on 23 July 2015. The Strategy supports the Government’s target of three per cent Indigenous representation in the Commonwealth public sector by 2018. Show more

The strategy focuses on four key action areas:

A. Expanding the range of Indigenous employment opportunities.
B. Investing in developing the capability of Indigenous employees.
C. Increasing the representation of Indigenous employees in senior roles.
D. Improving the awareness of Indigenous culture in the workplace.

We will be developing a practical implementation guide to supplement these actions. The guide will direct agencies to the various resources, programs and other initiatives available across the Commonwealth public sector.

The implementation guide will be made available on the Commission’s website and on Govdex by the end of 2015.

Find out more about the strategy on the APSC website.

Contact: Helena Sverdlin (helena.sverdlin [at] apsc.gov.au)  Hide content

Digital Academy

The Digital Transformation Office (DTO) was created to lead the transformation of government service delivery. Show more

A critical element in this transformation will be having the digital skills and capability to build services that are simple and easy to use, in particular on mobiles, tablets and computers. The DTO is proposing to establish a service delivery academy to focus on digital capability development for the APS.

It is working closely with the Commission, and other agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office and Department of Human Services, to understand agency needs and design an approach to capability development that will deliver the most value.

Contact: Liz Quinn (liz.quinn [at] apsc.gov.au)  Hide content

AHRI National Convention, Melbourne

The Commissioner gave the keynote presentation at the public sector day preceding the AHRI National Convention. The speech emphasised the important role of HR in helping organisations respond to budget and digital imperatives. Show more

He affirmed the need for ongoing and professional public servants but noted that “where employment is, by default, ongoing, there is a risk that capability will fall over time as the impetus for creativity is muted.” He used this to make the case for effective talent and performance management practices.

He also noted that public servants who were not engaged by their work, or could not contribute at the required level should consider seeking other opportunities, including other APS roles or roles outside the APS.

Overall, his advice to HR professionals was to see the business through the CEO’s eyes, to engage with technology to automate transactional and operational HR, and to ensure they develop the capabilities to add more strategic value.

A transcript of the Commissioner's speech is available on the APSC website.  Hide content


  • EL Leadership and Learning Network Event: “Large Scale Integration: are we learning from the past?”
    Deputy Secretary panel includes Elizabeth Kelly, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; Michael Manthorpe, Department of Immigration and Border Protection; and Michael Lye, Department of Social Services

    Wednesday 7 October 2.30pm, Canberra Southern Cross Club, Woden

    Register to attend on the APSC website

Last reviewed: 
7 June 2018