​Turnbull commissions capability review of Australia's Public Service

Former Telstra CEO David Thodey will lead the review of the Australian Public Service to ensure it is 'best placed' to serve Australian governments and the public into the future.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a review into the Australian Public Service (APS), seeking mainly to understand whether those staffing Australia's government departments are capable of ushering in the "next wave" of digital.

According to Turnbull, new technology and global developments are transforming the Australian economy and society, and as a result he believes it is timely to examine the capability, culture, and operating model of the APS to "ensure it is equipped to engage with the key policy, service delivery, and regulatory issues of the day".

"The APS has a long history advising successive Australian governments and serving the Australian people well, but a range of global, technological, and public policy developments are transforming our economy and our society, presenting both opportunities and challenges," Turnbull said in a statement on Friday.

"The public sector has a critical role in this context.

"The APS needs to be apolitical and professional, agile, innovative, and efficient -- driving both policy and implementation through coherent, collaborative, whole-of-government approaches. It must have the capability to meet core responsibilities and deliver functions, and to understand and deploy technology and data to drive improvement."

The terms of reference of the review note that the government is determined to ensure Australia capitalises on the opportunities the future presents to drive innovation, increase productivity, create jobs, improve citizens' experience of government, and deliver better services.

"The APS has a critical role in assisting government manage and respond to new and emerging challenges -- both in policy and implementation -- but it must be best placed to harness the opportunities, with the necessary in-house capability to both develop and implement solutions," the government wrote.

Specifically, the review will examine the capability, culture, and operating model of the APS.

It is expected that the panel will probe the APS to ensure it is capable of driving innovation and productivity in the economy; delivering appropriate policy advice, regulatory oversight, programs, and services; tackling complex challenges in collaboration with the community, business, and citizens; ensuring Australia's domestic, foreign, trade, and security interests are coordinated and well managed; improving citizens' experience of government and delivering fair outcomes for them; and acquiring and maintaining the necessary skills and expertise to fulfil its responsibilities.

The review comes in response to a report from Innovation and Science Australia earlier this year that recommended a review of the APS with the aim of "enabling a greater role and capability for innovation in policy development, implementation, and service delivery".

It will be led by former Telstra CEO and current chair of CSIRO David Thodey.

Joining Thodey is group executive of Digital Banking at ANZ Maile Carnegie; vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne professor Glyn Davis; Dr Gordon de Brouwer, who was formerly the Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Energy; chancellor of the University of Sydney Belinda Hutchinson; and group managing director of Coca-Cola Amatil Alison Watkins.

The panel will be supported by a secretariat in Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and will report on its findings in the first half of 2019.


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