Spare a thought for the bureaucrats moving mountains to ensure that by 1 July the new prime minister’s rearrangement of the APS deckchairs are just as he envisioned.
Two new departments will be created and a handful of agencies shuffled into new portfolios. And the process — with financial and legal implications — to uproot, reinstate and rebuild, is more logistically complex than moving house.
Prime minister Anthony Albanese said his government would ‘hit the ground running’ when he revealed his pick of ministers earlier this week, and now the work to make this possible gets underway.
Of course, this kind of disruption is common when there is a change in government and the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) notes it is a normal feature for career bureaucrats working in Canberra.
A spokesperson for the commission told The Mandarin business-as-usual work, including delivering government services, continued as normal during such periods of transition.
“One of the core values of the Australian Public Service is commitment to service,” the spokesperson said, pointing to a key MOG principle stating changes must be implemented in such a way to guarantee ‘continuity of government business’.
“A MOG change is about how we support the government’s priorities, with a focus on achieving the best outcomes for the Australian people. Agencies are expected to continue to deliver for the Australian people during such changes,” she said.
For the staff working for government agencies — the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) shifting into finance; the Australian Federal Police (AFP) moving under the AG’s remit; the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) going to home affairs, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) going into the new department of climate change, energy and the environment; and Old Parliament House now the responsibility of the department of infrastructure — that will be disrupted over the next four weeks, the APSC said internal directions would be made.
“Your agency will provide guidance to you about how the transition will occur in your agency.
“To understand the principles and processes, the department of finance provides guidance on MOG changes, which includes an explanation of the established protocol that ‘staff follow function’,” the spokesperson added.
According to the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), so long as the MOG arrangements did not impact a ‘fully staffed and secure’ workforce, its members would be prepared to back the government’s agenda. A spokesperson said the union looked forward to working with the PM to repair public services and deliver the services the community relied on.
“CPSU welcomes the re-creation of the climate change department. Union members hope it will go some way to undoing the corrosive cuts that occurred under the coalition government,” the spokesperson said.
“The past Liberal government took an axe to the public sector and our nation’s ability to fight the effects of climate change, including dismantling the Climate Commission and the Climate Change Authority.
“It has also axed the Carbon Pricing Mechanism and the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program and cut over half a billion dollars from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).”
The union also welcomed news of Albanese’s second new department — this one dedicated to employment and workplace relations under NSW MP Tony Burke.
“Strong wage growth and increased job security is desperately needed to ensure that the recovery from the pandemic extends to the workers who carried this country through the crisis,” the union spokesperson said.
Australia was long overdue for a government that invested in its public sector, she added.
“The Morrison government’s dismantling of key departments and agencies was all about their political agenda, and had nothing to do with good governance.”
“We will always work with our members to make sure their interests and rights are protected through any changes,” the spokesperson said.