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Graeme Tunks


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Since 2013, there have been over 14,000 APS jobs cut by the current

Government. This has had a profound negative effect on the public service, as it


• driven up consultancy expenditure;
• created a capability gap within the APS; and
• made the APS dependent on these consultants

This has been driven by the Average Staffing Level (ASL) cap which was

introduced in the 2015-16 Budget, as part of a Coalition policy to restrict public

sector employment (excluding military) to below the levels of 2007. The

consequence of this policy is the hiring of contractors and labour hire to conduct

work which would normally be carried out by the APS permanent employees.

The Productivity Commission has recommended the Government remove the

ASL cap in the NDIA, where expertise is being developed to produce capability.
This recommendation demonstrates a clearly negative effect on the APS as a

result of the ASL cap. The loss of specialist capability and service delivery

expertise from the wider APS is reflected in the Productivity Commission

recommendation for the NDIA to have the ASL cap removed.

A transformation has taken place within the APS culture as a result of the ASL

cap, where making budget savings is held in higher regard than quality of

service delivery. With an expectation of punitive response from Government for

attempting provision of service excellence by reinvestment of budgetary savings,
the instinct for the APS now is to always head for revenue savings instead.

An example is the reliance on external providers to deliver digital services which

has resulted in very poor customer experience via examples in the DHS and the

ABS. The public experience of these failures demeans the APS as a whole and

impacts staff, recruitment, retention and organisational prestige.

A further consequence of Government policy has been a move towards insecure

work, with more and more APS employees being contracted rather than

permanent staff. As well as the moves towards outsourcing and labour hire

contractors. This has an impact on the workplace as permanent staff work

alongside others who have vastly different pay and conditions but perform

similar work. This has a direct impact on the quality of service delivery, and

makes management of these workplaces far more difficult than where the

workforce is full-time APS staff. The impact of this on staff morale cannot be


In addition, there is a tendency now for utilisation of permanent full-time APS

employees to multi-function in crucial roles such as WHS, risk management,
security etc. In the past the delegation to one person for each of these roles has

worked successfully and allowed the building of significant expertise. With the

adoption of multi-role personnel in these areas it has driven staff towards a task
focus and degraded development and acquisition of expertise. This also has an

adverse effect on each of these functions as the dedication to the role is reduced

in each instance. Importantly, there has been nil remuneration for the staff

expected to conduct these multi-role functions.

A consequence overall from these negative impacts is the move towards a risk-
averse culture in the APS. At the same time as risk management being

increasingly utilised to conduct business, culturally the instinct has tended

towards risk avoidance. This is precisely the opposite effect to that which the

risk management framework seeks.