Re-elected Prime Minister’s public message to department heads

By Stephen Easton

Thursday May 23, 2019

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Don’t get in our way.

That’s the message Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave federal secretaries in front of the media at Parliament House on Thursday.

Morrison said he respected the role of the public service but there would be “very clear targets” for its performance on implementing policy quickly and not creating “blockages” that frustrate investors.

“Congestion busting doesn’t just need to happen on our roads and around the country,” said the PM.

“I want to see some congestion busting in bureaucracy, ensuring that we get things done.”

He also seemed to suggest service delivery was at least as important, if not a bigger priority than frank and fearless advice.

“How good is the public service,” joked Deputy PM Michael McCormack. Here’s what they had to say in full.

PM Scott Morrison:

On Saturday the Australian people have given us a very specific task and that is to continue to be government of this great nation.

I deeply respect, as does Michael [McCormack], the work of the public service in delivering on the agenda of a government, on delivering on the policies of the government.

In every portfolio that I’ve served in, and worked with the public service, that is always the relationship that I’ve had — to set out clearly where we were going and to have the very strong expectation that would be delivered, and that has been my experience.

And as Michael and I finalise our ministry and those who you’ll be working to, there are three key areas where we’ll be seeking some very clear direction.

The first of those is obviously that we need to ensure that our economy remains strong to support the budget, and the financial management that enables us to do all the things that we intend to do across all the various portfolio areas: health, education, pharmaceutical benefits scheme, mental health in particular for young people, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Secondly the world is an increasingly uncertain place, and I’ve had many discussions with people in this room about the uncertainties that presents, not just in the economic sphere but in the strategic sphere as well.

And I think it’s very important that we continue to focus on the ways that we can use our influence and our relationships, and build on those relationships, in the Indo-Pacific region, and with our friends and partners around the world, to continue to be a voice of reason and common sense that is focused on the prosperity and the peacefulness in our region, for the people of our region.

And the third area, and this is most important I think for everyone sitting around this table, of course the public service gives us fearless and frank advice, but the thing that we depend on and that you’re professionally responsible for is the delivery of those services.

And whether it’s in the National Disability Insurance Scheme or whether it’s in hospitals and infrastructure delivery where Michael is so involved, concluding arrangements and ensuring that the funding that is provided to the states and territories and the services that we run through Centrelink — this all needs to run seamlessly and efficiently.

A big part of the way that I intend to direct over the next three years is there’ll be very clear targets about the performance levels that we’ll expect from the delivery of the public service, that Australians should expect to see things turned around quickly, that investors that are looking to invest in Australia, the blockages that often frustrate them, they will be dealt with.

Congestion busting doesn’t just need to happen on our roads and around the country, congestion busting needs to happen in the bureaucracy, and I want to see some congestion busting in bureaucracy, ensuring that we get things done.

And so when your ministers are appointed and you sit down with them, you can expect them to have very clear views about the direction that the government will be taking.

I will certainly be doing that as Prime Minister, but before we go into that phase I wanted to send a very clear message that I understand the role that the public service plays in delivering on the government’s plans and the government’s agenda.

And so with that, I thank you for the work that all of your departments will be doing in the years ahead and it will be a very busy time, I can assure you, and those who have worked most closely with me know how busy that can get.

Deputy PM Michael McCormack:

Look, the Australian public placed their faith and trust in us on Saturday and delivered an election result that we are obviously very gratified about. We are placing our faith and trust in you over the next three years again to perform what you do in a timely manner, in the professional manner that we’ve always come to expect.

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