The State Service of Tasmania has a long history advising successive governments and serving the Tasmanian people. However, ever changing national and global environments, technological and public policy developments are transforming our economy and our society, presenting both opportunities and challenges. Through embracing these opportunities the State Service of Tasmania will be able to drive innovation, productivity, tackle the future changes in collaborative ways and improve the community’s experience and outcomes.
The State Service of Tasmania must be apolitical and professional, and it must adapt to change and continually strive for improvement. The rules and practices governing the Service must support our staff to work in ways that enable them to do this easily, efficiently and effectively.
The review of the Tasmanian State Service, which Premier Will Hodgman recently announced, is an exciting opportunity to transform current structures, services and practices to deliver a more contemporary and effective public service.
The current legislative framework for the Service, the State Service Act 2000, was comprehensively developed during the late 1990s, making it nearly 20 years old. It is therefore timely to ask whether that framework is best suited to meet the needs of Tasmania today and into the future.
Tasmania is undergoing rapid economic, social, environmental and technological change. This sort of change will continue, posing new opportunities and challenges for business and the broader Tasmanian community. Our population is also growing and our community’s expectations are changing, with a desire for more place-based services that are delivered seamlessly and which are reviewed and evaluated to ensure that they meet the needs of the community.
Rather than serving the bureaucratic public administration institution of the past, public servants now need the skills and ability to collaborate, both across government and with non-government organisations, be technically competent and responsive to change. They must routinely adjust resources to meet government priorities and must build and maintain technically and socially competent teams to support this.
We need to build on the good work that is happening across the Service. The State Service is a great organisation to work for but there is always room for improvement and we need the right structures and systems to enable that to happen. Of course, structures and systems are only one part of the equation — supporting and developing our staff is the other critical aspect. We want to ensure the Service remains a career pathway of choice; that we develop our existing staff, and attract and retain the best possible people.
Other Australian jurisdictions have recognised the need to ensure their public sectors are fit-for-purpose in the present and for the future. Western Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria have done so in recent years. Queensland and the Australian government have been conducting reviews this year. The report of the review of the Australian Public Service was submitted to the Australian government in September 2019.
The Tasmanian review will look to these reviews as one source of information, and the Independent Reviewer, Dr Ian Watt AC, will also consult widely. He will be advised by a reference group of six to eight members with public and private sector experience, together with a representative from the public sector unions and the not-for-profit sector.
The review of the Tasmanian State Service will concentrate primarily on the governing framework of the TSS. In doing so Dr Watt will be guided by some key reference points, which will be finalised following a period of public consultation, currently underway.
The overarching theme of the review is building the capability of the TSS through its people and systems. The review will identify structural, legislative and administrative improvements that will transform current structures, services and practices to deliver a more contemporary, efficient and effective public service.
This is an exciting opportunity to create an environment that better supports the Service to meet the needs of government and the Tasmanian community now and into the future.