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Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 2000


Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE(5.18) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This report from the Public Service Board is of interest because it reflects the changes that have been made to the Australian Public Service throughout the past year. The report is the first that outlines some of the Public Service reforms that were undertaken through legislative framework.

The matters I wish to refer to today are the changes that were made relating to controls on staff numbers and the fact that the system of staff ceilings previously used by government to control staff numbers of Commonwealth departments ceased to apply in 1983. Under the recent Public Service reforms, the Department of Finance assumed responsibility for advising the Government on human resource levels for 1984-85 and onwards. That change is of interest. I found it interesting to look at the ways in which the Department of Finance is undertaking that role which now divorces numbers of people in the Public Service from the control of the Public Service Board itself and the ways in which the Department of Finance is aiming to improve financial and related management practice throughout the Public Service in terms of this year's Budget. I was aware of what had been done with numbers in a number of departments and of the new programs that had been introduced. The figures reflected in the cost of administration of government this year were of some interest to me especially when I related the increase in the cost of administration to the increase that had been made in public expenditure through the Commonwealth Government generally. I do not have the figures with me, but they do reflect that the cost of administration had risen something like 5 per cent more than expenditure had risen. As we continue with this new system under which the Department of Finance has control over the numbers of people who are required to administer programs of government, it will be interesting to see how they relate efficiency in administration to programs which are undertaken by government in the future.

The financial management improvement program which has been introduced with the goal of encouraging departments and authorities to be more efficient and effective in strategic planning, in the formulation of policy proposals and priorities and in management of programs and activities should result in more efficient administration. I would hope that the results of this financial management improvement program are reflected in the departments into which it has been introduced. These are departments which use large numbers of public servants-the Departments of Communications, Defence, Health, and Immigration and Ethnic Affairs-which have all begun implementation of the financial management improvement objectives. I would hope that as we get future reports from the Public Service Board we will see some reflection of that efficiency in administration in numbers of people who are employed.

The other matter to which I draw attention, as we are looking at a Public Service Board report, is the change that has occurred in regard to health and safety and the new role that will be undertaken in that part of public administration. It leaves one wondering just exactly what the role of the Public Service will be in the future when numbers and efficiency of public administration are under the control and responsibility of the Department of Finance and health and safety under the control of a commission. This rather reflects that the Public Service Board will have a more limited role to play in public administration than it has had in the past. I look forward with interest to the result of the financial management improvement program and the other changes that have been made because I think this would make a very interesting study on another occasion when we can have a more detailed debate and discussion than we can have on the tabling of this report.