It’s a fresh new era as Albanese promises respect for the public service

By Melissa Coade

May 23, 2022

Jim Chalmers, Penny Wong, Anthony Albanese, Richard Marles, and Katy Gallagher are sworn into office. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Anthony Albanese has flagged a new approach to the public service, using his first press conference as prime minister to praise the sector and promise no sackings.

That fate, naturally, will not be enjoyed by Phil Gaetjens who sat at the top of the APS as Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet secretary. Gaetjens is gone and Stephanie Foster is understood to have stepped up to act in his role since Sunday.

Albanese said he met with DPM&C yesterday and thanked its staff for their professionalism.

“It was a reminder, I as a former deputy prime minister and minister, of how valued our public servants are,” he said.

“We won’t be sacking public servants either, we’ll be valuing public servants and respecting them. And the fact that we’re able to have discussions and put measures in place to allow whatever the outcome of the result on Saturday for those arrangements to be put in place, says a lot about how professional our public service are.

“We should not take it for granted.”

This morning Albanese was sworn in as Australia’s 31st prime minister, looking set to win at least 75 seats in the federal election to form government as polls continue to be counted. 

During his election-night victory speech, Albanese touched on the ideals of equal opportunity, unity and optimism in building a better future for the country. 

“Every parent wants more for the next generation than they had. My mother wanted more for me, and I hope that my journey in life inspires Australians to reach for the stars,” Albanese said of his humble beginnings in public housing in Sydney.

“I want Australia to continue to be a country that, no matter where you live, who you worship, who you love, or what your last name is, places no restrictions on your journey in life,” he said. 

The Australian Labor party achieved a 3.84% swing on a two-party preferred basis, winning 52.31% of the national vote. 

According to the AEC, the Labor party will be able to form government in the lower house with at least 75 seats. It will need to win 76 seats to lead a majority government. A total of 71.1% of all votes had been counted as of this morning.

Senior Labor figures Richard Marles, Jim Chalmers, Penny Wong, and Katy Gallagher were also sworn in as ministers on Monday morning. They have been appointed deputy prime minister and employment minister; treasurer; foreign affairs minister; and minister for women, finance and attorney-general of the new Labor government, respectively.  

Albanese and Wong will travel directly to Japan from the swearing-in ceremony at the governor-general’s residence to attend a meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Chalmers and Gallagher will dive into Labor’s auditing program to review the books and see where cost savings can be made. This will include a close scrutiny of government spending on consultant services and department use of labour-hire firms, where the nation’s new leaders believe $3 billion can be saved over four years.

Reinvesting in the public service is a major agenda item for the new government. During a treasurers’ election debate earlier this month, Chalmers told the National Press Club in-house APS capacity and capability was paramount.

“As part of [Labor’s] plan to trim spending on outsourcing in the public service, is to invest in the capacity of the public service in key areas where it’s been especially hollowed out,” Chalmers added, noting he felt Scott Morrison had missed an opportunity by not adopting all the recommendations of the 2019 Thodey Review.

“I think there are opportunities to pick up and run with some of [the Thodey] agenda. But part of that is investing responsibly in people in the public service so they can continue to deliver the high quality of services, the high quality of advice, that we need in this country and that Australians deserve for their taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Although Liberal leader Scott Morrison retained his seat of Cook, his senior colleague Josh Frydenberg was booted out by his own electorate in Victoria. The election was a bruising outcome for the LNP Coalition. 

Another four years of Morrison and his self-professed ‘bulldozer’ approach to leading the nation was a hard pill for voters to swallow. This was the case especially for women, with a phenomenal showing of support for independent candidates, who were able to snatch six blue-ribbon seats from the Liberals.

“It’s a difficult night for Liberals and Nationals around the country,” Morrison told party faithful during his concession speech on Saturday night.

“I think on a night like tonight, we can reflect on the greatness of our democracy. I’ve always believed in Australians and their judgment and I’ve always been prepared to accept their verdict.” 

Morrison confirmed he would step aside as leader and has already moved to vacate Kirribilli House in Sydney. 

WA Liberal Ben Morton, Morrison’s right-hand man and the former minister for the public service, was also rolled by voters in the seat of Tangney at the weekend. 

Votes in Western Australia saw a massive repudiation of the federal Coalition government with the electorates of Pearce, Swan and Hasluck all going to Labor. The traditionally safe Liberal seat of Moore is also in doubt. 

Former defence minister and a powerbroker of the Liberals’ right faction Peter Dutton is tipped to take over as leader of the party

In Dutton’s home state of Queensland, the election saw the Greens enjoy a groundswell of support in three inner-Brisbane seats. The minor party achieved 13.2% of the vote in the state with a 2.9% swing towards them at the time 48.3% of the vote was counted.


Diplomacy first immediate focus for Albanese

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