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Circular 2013/02: Passage of the Public Service Amendment Bill

Please note - this is an archived circular.

The purpose of this circular is to inform Australian Public Service (APS) agencies of the passage of the Public Service Amendment Bill 2012 (the Bill) was passed by the Parliament on 7 February 2013 and to advise on next steps.

The Bill, explanatory memorandum and House and Senate debate speeches are available from the Parliament of Australia website.

Main features

The Bill makes significant changes to the Public Service Act 1999 (the Act) relating to leadership and governance roles of the Public Service Commissioner, and the functions of both the Public Service Commissioner and Merit Protection Commissioner. It also makes amendments that address a number of operational matters that have arisen since the last major changes in 1999.

The main features are:

  • amendments to the role and responsibilities of Secretaries and statutory provision for an annual review of performance
  • amendments to require decisions about the appointment and termination of appointment of Secretaries to be made by the Governor-General
  • the replacement of the Management Advisory Committee with the Secretaries Board whose functions include stewardship of the APS
  • a clearer, shorter statement of the APS Values and the introduction of a set of Employment Principles
  • amendments to the role of the Senior Executive Service (SES) requiring APS-wide standards of leadership, including a requirement to promote the APS Values and Employment Principles
  • a clear role for the Australian Public Service Commissioner as a central authority for the development and stewardship of the Australian Public Service, including clearer powers of oversight and review
  • the capacity for the Governor-General to appoint Special Commissioners to assist the Public Service Commissioner with the conduct of certain reviews
  • amendments to the Merit Protection Commissioner's review functions, the APS Code of Conduct and the handling of misconduct.

There is also a range of other operational amendments.

The Bill implements recommendations of the Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration in its report Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration (the Blueprint). All of the report's recommendations were accepted by Government on 8 May 2010. Some of those recommendations have required legislative change.

Commencement of amendments

The new legislation will take effect on a date to be announced. In the meantime, the current provisions of the Act continue to apply.

Subordinate legislation

The amendments to the Act will be supported by amendments to the Public Service Regulations 1999 and the Public Service Commissioner's Directions 1999.

Further information

The Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) will release over the coming months detailed advices by topic on the action that agencies need to take by commencement date.

The Commission will also hold an information session for agencies before commencement.

Action required now

No specific action is currently required. However, agencies may care to consider how best to prepare their employees, including their SES employees, for the coming changes, for example, in relation to their updated role and the revised APS Values and the introduction of Employment Principles.

Agencies may also care to start reviewing their policies, instructions and guidance for references to the current APS Values and Code of Conduct with a view to preparing a plan for updating them and include the new Employment Principles.

Further advice

Please contact the Public Service Amendment Bill team on 02 6202 3737 if this circular requires clarification.

Karin Fisher
Group Manager
Ethics Group

7 February 2013

Last reviewed: 
9 July 2018