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Thursday, 1 September 1994
Page: 755

Senator COATES —I present the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration entitled Public Service Reform, together with a video recording of the committee's proceedings.

  Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator COATES —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the report.

The report I have just tabled contains the papers and proceedings arising from a two-day conference which was jointly conducted by the committee and the Centre for Research in Public Sector Management at the University of Canberra. A set of videotapes of the conference is also tabled to provide a permanent audiovisual record of the proceedings. The conference was held in Canberra on 10 and 11 August and was attended by nearly 100 people, including senior public servants, past and present, academics, consultants, unionists, journalists and other parties interested in commenting on the impact of the public service reforms of the last decade.

  The committee has had a longstanding interest in the field of public service administration and resolved, under its standing reference on central administration of the Australian government, to undertake a review of the most significant report on public service reform to be published this decade, the review of the MAB-MIAC task force on management improvement, entitled Australian Public Service Reformed.

  The reforms of the previous decade have been numerous and—in a climate characterised by decentralisation, devolution, and diversity—have involved structural reforms, industrial reforms, human resource management reforms, financial and budgeting reforms, commercial reforms and planning and reporting reforms, all of which have been aimed at achieving increased efficiency and productivity. As I said at the conference, some of the changes and their consequences have saddened me considerably.

  The committee sought to assess the impact of these reforms, but chose to approach the inquiry in a more flexible, less formal way than the traditional public hearing process. Arrangements were made with the Centre for Research in Public Sector Management to jointly conduct the conference. The results of that process are contained in the two volumes of the committee's report—volume 1 contains the papers provided by the speakers to the conference and volume 2 contains the transcript of proceedings. Whilst most of the papers were made available during the conference, some authors have submitted amended copies of their papers for publication. Others who did not provide papers for the conference have since submitted them.

  At this stage the committee has not drawn any conclusions from the information presented at the conference nor made any recommendations. However, the committee, or should I say its successor committee, will carefully consider the issues raised in the course of the conference in deciding on its priorities with respect to future inquiries into the administration of the Australian Public Service.

  The committee is pleased to publish this material in order to contribute to an informed debate about the value of the reforms of the past decade and to identify issues which need to be addressed if the Public Service is to develop in a way which contributes to building both an equitable and an efficient society. I commend the report to the Senate and all who are interested in the field of Public Service reform. As no other member of the committee wishes to speak at this stage, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

  Leave granted; debate adjourned.