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Monday, 25 June 2012
Page: 7886

Dr LEIGH (Fraser) (20:55): I thank the member for Riverina for freeing up an extra two minutes for me with his speedy speaking. The United Nations General Assembly designated 23 June as United Nations Public Service Day. In the words of the UN, it is a day to celebrate the value and virtue of public service to the community. Public servants make an enormous contribution to the Australian community, and as a member for a seat based in the ACT I have the privilege of representing, meeting and working with a large number of public servants. Public servants form a significant portion of my community. In my electorate of Fraser we also benefit from a continual influx of people moving here to take up opportunities to serve the Australian public. We see this passion for community translated into a great benefit locally, the ACT having higher than average rates of volunteering and participation in sports and recreation—two indicators in which we top the nation.

Very rarely do we stop and appreciate the hard work performed by Australian public servants. Australian public servants have performed extraordinary acts. They headed into flood-affected Brisbane to make sure that people received their government payments, they developed a fiscal stimulus package to get us through the global financial crisis, they are in Australian workplaces making sure that Australian workers have good conditions, they are keeping infectious diseases out of the country and they are finding the most effective way to price pollution to protect our environment. None of these tasks would be possible without a public service to develop and implement policy and programs. We would all still be stuck with old-fashioned ways of running our economy and society if it were not for the public servants who continually review and refine what we do now and develop innovative approaches to public policy. I commend the Crawford School of Public Policy for its work through the HC Coombs Policy Forum in developing better policies.

Australia is at an exciting point in its history. The government is looking to the future to develop policies that will shape our place in the world and the way we look after the most vulnerable. Australians joining the Public Service today have the opportunity to form and influence Australia's future. This ties in with another aim of UN Public Service Day, which is to encourage young people to pursue careers in the public sector. Every year thousands of young and not-so-young people move to the ACT to take up jobs as graduates in the Australian Public Service. I encourage all young Australians to consider a career in the Public Service. In doing so they will be able to help address the challenges of today, and inform the decisions we make for Australia's future.

UN Public Service Day is also a time for us to reflect on and recognise that an efficient and effective public service helps to achieve international goals as well as national ones. The Australian Public Service is one of the most efficient in the world, which is how we are able as a medium sized power to have a strong voice in the international community. One of the things that Australia does best as part of our foreign aid strategy is assist countries such as Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and East Timor set up transparent and accountable public services. Knowing our foreign aid dollars will be managed for the benefit of the entire community is important, and we also know that structures of government are a vital part of a robust democracy. Assisting with good governance is of long-term benefit in our region.

Successful nations are underpinned by successful public sectors. Those nations that were most successful in the last century were so successful because they had a capable public sector. In fact, progress as a nation is virtually impossible without a committed public service. It is vital for our region that Australia continue to be an example and provide practical assistance to those countries most in need. We are fortunate in Australia to have a public service offering frank and fearless advice to governments of all persuasions, and it is time we all took a moment to thank our hardworking public servants.

Debate adjourned.