That’s a bit juicy, let’s share it

By The Mandarin

Wednesday May 19, 2021

Introducing Juicy Bits! (Image: Adobe/Figaro)

Today we launch our new column Juicy Bits, aimed at sharing with The Mandarin’s Juice readers some well-sourced tips and rumours – and maybe even a perspective or two on some things that might already be ‘out there’. This regular column aims to be light but also pointed. General and specific. And we would love to hear from you should you have anything juicy to share. Just drop a line to [email protected] with any leads or tips. What’s your goss?

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Best defence is offence

Is defence minister Peter Dutton planning a major overhaul of his department? According to a well-founded rumour out there right now, yes, he is. Get ready for some serious restructure as well as changes in leadership.

Asia Pacific Defence Reporter first commented on it and published leaked instructions the minister has issued to his department about how to deal with all media enquiries. His orders state:

  • Responses are to be as brief and succinct as possible.
  • Guidance is to limit responses to three paras, regardless of the breadth of the question(s); additional information can be offered on background.
  • Capability-related interviews are unlikely to be approved, be rigidly flexible to revert to written responses.

And what’s more, The Mandarin understands an internal investigation got immediately underway as to how the journal in question got its hands on the missive.

Sense in the census

The APS Employee Census is waiting to be completed by as many eager public servants who are willing to participate. The annual survey is used to ‘collect confidential attitude and opinion information from APS employees on important issues in the workplace’.

Each APS employee receives an invitation containing a unique link to the survey. Let’s not talk about how confidential a ‘unique link’ can truly be. Let’s talk about how useful the information is.

The census provides an opportunity for employees to tell the Australian Public Service Commissioner and agency heads what they think about working in the APS. Very useful indeed and a valuable resource. Which is why there is no surprise many invitations are being accepted.

But some haven’t arrived, leaving employees to request them through their own agencies. They want to fill out the census. Requests are not always being met with speedy responses. Seems some HR departments are already struggling to keep up with the demand.

That could be ominous for exactly what frank advice the surveys might contain – once they can be filled out.

Not so secure

Concerns are being raised inside a number of federal agencies that they are being left open to more cybersecurity breaches due to flawed processes meant to stop such incidents.

It seems there is a strong focus in a number of departments on policy writing, with scant understanding of the operational practicalities required to implement any new approaches.

In true bureaucratic practice, this appears to be a ‘tick-the-box’ exercise with no discernible security improvement – frustrating many public servants at the IT coalface.

Meanwhile, too many government systems remain just as vulnerable to unfriendly actors.

Just grin and ‘ware’ it

Some computer software providers are increasingly playing hardball with government agencies, knowing their systems are so heavily integrated into business that they can comfortably increase licensing costs well above standard inflation when contracts are renewed.

This is causing more than a little angst with some public sector leaders frustrated at the needless waste of taxpayers’ money.

There is an underlying ‘threat’ that business-critical files will be unusable if significant fee hikes are not agreed to and paid. Some public servants are now openly likening the growing practice to ‘ransomware’, yet there appears to be little successful resistance.

Senior staff are, however, being diverted from other important tasks to engage in ongoing negotiations and contingency planning – which is itself creating additional expense.

Read the room and quit

We know this one has been reported, but let’s finish on this note.

Seven years after the Abbott government axed the carbon price, the department of climate change, and a slew of public servants, those who can see which way the wind is blowing still aren’t safe.

Queensland’s state-owned power generator, Stanwell Corporation, lost its chief executive recently when he read the room and quit.

Richard van Breda unexpectedly stepped down after the state’s energy minister, Mick de Brenni, complained to board members over van Breda’s announcement – made ahead of a future energy summit in Gladstone – that the business would begin a transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

A sad and sobering room to read.


The 2020 APS employee census is a gift that keeps on giving

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