Resignation: NT public sector commissioner Craig Allen decides ‘it’s time to move on’

By Stephen Easton

Wednesday May 8, 2019

Northern Territory flag
Northern Territory flag

The Northern Territory Commissioner for Public Employment, Craig Allen, has tendered his resignation and will join the Queensland Office of Industrial Relations as a deputy director-general.

Allen has been in the role for just over five years. “Before that, I came here from Queensland, and for a number of personal and family reasons it’s time to move on,” he told The Mandarin.

He said he was proud of his role in getting more Indigenous people into public-sector employment — from 8.3% to 10.5% of the total workforce during his time in office, and from 2.3% to 5.6% of the senior executive ranks.

NT commissioner for public employment Craig Allen-portrait
Craig Allen.

“We’ve still got a way to go because 30% of population in the Northern Territory is Aboriginal, and we’ve got a target of 16%,” he said. “When I first came here, noone thought we would get into double figures, so we’ve done a lot of work to achieve that.

“We’ve done a lot of work to [increase the number of] Aboriginal people in senior positions. We’ve pretty much doubled the number in the time that I’ve been here, which is a good thing.”

He is also proud of his efforts to simplify recruitment in general, which he explained in The Mandarin three years ago.

“We streamlined the whole process. We made it more appropriate for people who haven’t been public servants to apply. … I think we just put barriers up; so one of the things that I’ve always wanted to do is make sure anyone could apply for a public service position, and you don’t have to have been brought up through the public service to write the selection criteria and all that sort of stuff.

“So we changed that, and actually by doing that, we actually reduced the number of appeals and grievances around recruitment, so that was a positive thing.”

In enterprise bargaining, Allen is proud to say nearly all workplace agreements have been settled without industrial action.

“And I do think the Northern Territory public service is a great public service,” he added, referring to one of his comments that found its way to the local newspaper.

Allen said he was often impressed by the work of the NT government, which is the smallest in the nation but faces big challenges due to the territory’s small population spread over a vast area. Its biosecurity efforts and innovation in healthcare were two examples that came to mind.

“When I first came here, one of the things that I was really impressed with, was the Health Department developed a mobile breast screening clinic that could operate in both tropical humid environments and desert environments, and transmit images back to Royal Darwin Hospital in real-time.

“It increased significantly the number of women in remote communities that were able to access that care, and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is outstanding.'”

Allen’s announcement directly follows the latest NT budget, and comes just after the government announced a pay freeze for politicians and senior public servants plus a 10% reduction in the number of senior executives, equal to 52 jobs.

Earlier this year the government realised it had little choice but to impose much stricter fiscal discipline in the public sector due to a budget crisis that has been brewing since well before it came to power.

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