Public sector catch-up: QLD appointments, red tape, cloud expands, new talent program

By Harley Dennett

April 8, 2015

Queensland appointments close soon

Robert Setter
Robert Setter

The Queensland Public Service Commission has announced the selection panel for all 18 of the state’s director-general positions, which were advertised nationally following the Palaszczuk Government’s decision to have all agency heads appointed anew by a merit process. Queensland’s acting public service commissioner Robert Setter will chair the panel. He will be joined by independent members Lynelle Briggs and Jim Hallion. Briggs has previously been the Australian public service commissioner, and is currently chair of the NSW Planning Assessment Commission. Hallion was previously chief executive of the South Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet and is now the state’s Coordinator-General.

Together the panel offers the breadth of experience and depth of expertise in effective chief executive-level governance of government central agencies and portfolio service delivery reflective of the Queensland Directors General positions to be filled.

The selection panel will conduct interviews and recommend appointments to the Premier. New appointments to these roles will be subject to approval by the Governor-in-Council.

Applications close at 5pm on Tuesday April 14. Applicants may nominate their preferred departments. Details of the roles are available via recruiter Chandler Macleod’s website.


High Court rules on state employees

In a case that could have wide ranging implications for public sector industrial matters, the High Court has unanimously held that employees at Queensland Rail are governed by federal industrial relations law and not Queensland state law. The case also drew interest from the Commonwealth, NSW and Victorian attorneys-general. Although created by the Queensland Rail Transit Authority Act to oversee rail services, the government-owned body operates as a trade corporation according to the ruling:

“Even if the Authority [Queensland Rail] is treated as now doing nothing more than supplying labour to QRL (a related entity) for the purposes of QRL providing rail services and even if, as the Authority submitted, the Authority chooses to supply that labour at a price which yields it no profit, those features of its activities neither permit nor require the conclusion that the Authority is not a trading corporation. Labour hire companies are now a common form of enterprise. The engagement of personnel by one enterprise for supply of their labour to another enterprise is a trading activity. That the parties to the particular supply arrangement are related entities does not deny that characterisation of the activity. That the prices for supply are struck at a level which yields no profit to the supplier likewise does not deny that the supplier is engaged in a trading activity.”


Amazon cloud gets Finance nod

The behemoth of the cloud services industry is finally open to Commonwealth agencies, revealed via an unheralded blog post by Department of Finance assistant secretary Mundi Tomlinson. Amazon Web Services sparked another price war in the local datacentre market when it announced it would be building two new local cloud storage centres in Sydney last year. There are now 84 approved cloud services providers on the Commonwealth panel.


Deregulation unit

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet reports it netted savings of $13.2 million in 2014 following the creation of its deregulation unit last year. The majority of the saving came from streamlining individual grant program activities into a single program under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy:

“The move to a single programme generated savings of $9.3m from a more streamlined application process; reductions in start-up times; and reduced compliance costs.”


Rationale for red tape

John Quiggin returns to the topic of red tape reduction, blogging that the inevitability of administrative growth has little to do with stupidity or empire building:

“My own hypothesis is that every big mistake (for example, an undetected embezzlement or a mishandled episode of harassment) produces a permanent bureaucratic response designed to prevent a recurrence. This is very costly to reverse (who wants to deal with the first big embezzlement just after they downsized the accounting department) even if it would, in some sense, be less costly to put up with occasional failures. Moreover, for both good and bad reasons, I think we are, as a society, becoming less tolerant of institutional failures across a wide range of activities (systematic wrongdoing by financial institutions is a major counterexample but, I think, exceptional). So, we have more checks and balances, and more bureaucrats to enforce them.”


Ian McPhee stays for now

The sage advice at the Australian National Audit Office will continue under the respected Ian McPhee for a while yet. McPhee’s 10-year term as Auditor-General ended last month, and he has been retained as acting Auditor-General pending the appointment process for his replacement. That process is currently underway at PMC. Despite ongoing parliamentary interest in open appointment processes of statutory positions, no updates or call out for interested applicants will be made until the appointment is complete.


Open Policy Making Toolkit

The UK civil service has gone into purdah (caretaker) mode, but before doing so released the first prototype of its Open Policy Making Toolkit

“The toolkit is based on the principles of open policy making — to be open to new techniques, new evidence and new expertise so we can make better policy and implement more effectively. Civil servants should use these tools in addition to the various policy guides given by departments.”


Diversity gets ‘Accelerated’

A new central diversity and inclusion unit and an “ambitious” new senior executive talent program, Accelerate, will be created in the UK civil service following new reports of barriers to career progression for talent personnel with a disability, ethnic background or identifying as LGBT. Head of the service Sir Jeremy Heywood released a set of changes to their less-than-one-year-old Talent Action Plan that also include additional support for departments and agencies to incorporate diversity and inclusion in all HR processes. Non-executive directors will be appointed to “hold the civil service to account on this agenda”. From June, every business unit in the UK civil service will have a mental health “first-aider”, and agencies will unify their disability passport system to smooth transitions inside the service.


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