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Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill 1979

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f I® H@i„ liia Wales» MF ■ ' g~i . EMBARGO 3.00pm


I am attaching a brief statement setting out the main provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill 1979 and including comments on the main criticisms of the Bill which have been made. .

I appreciate that the Bill is a complex one but I have been disappointed·that many of the comments and criticisms of the Bill have been couched in extravagant language - in some cases they have been totally inaccurate.

It is the Government's intention- to proceed with the Bill, which is an important one to the efficient and economical use of staff within the Australian Public Service. The Bill introduces two important new concepts; it places an onus·on management to seek to redeploy staff wherever possible as a

primary obligation, and it provides more satisfactory and extensive safeguards and appeal rights for staff, compared with the summary provisions in the present Public Service Act. In addition, the Bill introduces an important new

condition of employment, the right to voluntarily retire on an appropriately reduced pension from the age of 55 onwards.

20 May 1979


The Bill applies to all staff of departments and prescribed statutory authorities except those on probation and fixed contracts, and temporary employees with less than one year's service.

It provides for: ·

- voluntary early retirement after the age of 55

- identification and declaration by a Permanent Head or a prescribed statutory authority of staff as eligible for redeployment where their services cannot reasonably be used:

(a) because they are excess to requirements;

(b) because they are physically or mentally ·

. incapable of performing their duties;

(c) 'for any other prescribed reason'. Such ' reasons may include limited efficiency or loss of essential qualifications (eg a licence), and will be prescribed by regulation after consultation with staff •organisations and a report to the Governor-


- redeployment by the Public Service Board, which has special placement powers in relation to both the Public Service and prescribed statutory authorities

- retirement by the Permanent Head or prescribed statutory authority when the Board has certified that it is not possible to redeploy.

These provisions will replace sections 20, .67 and 85 of the Public Service Act (which permit much more summary action). .

Permanent Heads and prescribed statutory authorities have a direct responsibility for ’efficient and economical1 use of staff.

The Public Service Board (or a prescribed authority after consultation with the Public Service Board) may notify in the Gazette administrative procedures relating to the Bill,

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including criteria and procedures for identification of staff as eligible for redeployment, and principles for redeployment.

. Staff have a right of appeal separately against each of:

- identification as eligible for redeployment

- any redeployment action taken

- decisions that redeployment is not practicable.

. The Appeal Tribunal may confirm or revoke decisions or actions. In the indent!fication of 1 excess numbers' involv­ ing -a number of employees, a declaration identifying a different employee may be substituted for the original declaration.

. Retirement at management initiative can take place at any age, but a special benefit applies to those retired 'for any other prescribed reason' between the ages of 55 and 60. It is the Government's intention to pay a special benefit additional to that already provided to eligible staff under

the Superannuation Act 1976, equivalent to 2 months' salary for each year of service foregone below the age of. 60, ie at age 55 years 10 months' salary ranging to 2 months' salary at age 59 years. . .


Q. Will the Bill allow the Government to get rid of politically unacceptable employees? .

A. The Bill does not provide for the Government to play any part at all in the individual personnel decisions taken under the provisions of the Bill. This role is in the hands of departmental heads and the Board. The Bill therefore

continues the Westminster tradition of not involving the Government or Ministers in internal personnel matters in the interests of maintaining an independent and impartial Public Service.

Q. Does the Bill give excessive power to the Board to inter- . fere in Departments through the redeployment powers?

A. In the ultimate the Board will have the power to redeploy staff in departments. This general power is already given

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to the Board in the Public Service Act - the more detailed provisions in the new Bill are consistent with the role recommended for the Board by the RCAGA in handling excess, staff ceses. It also conforms with what some unions have ■ wanted in actual excess staff situations eg Health Insur­

ance Commission.

Q. Who will the Bill apply to?

A. The Bill will apply to all staff of the Australian Public Service and of prescribed statutory authorities, except those on probation and fixed contracts and temporary employees with less than one year's service. Initially, the Bill will extend only to staff of the Australian Public Service, but there is provision for it to be extended by regulation, with approp­

riate modifications if necessary, to cover employees of Commonwealth authorities, but only where each particular authority agrees to be so covered.

Q. What are the specified grounds on which staff can be ident­ ified for redeployment or retirement?

A. The grounds are: .

. where an employee is one of a class of employees who are excess to the efficient operating needs of their organisation;

. physical or mental incapacity; '

. . any other reason prescribed in regulations under the Bill.

Regulations prescribing 'other reasons' can only be made after the Public Service Board has consulted with employee . organisations and reported to the Governor-General on the result of those consultations. The 'other reasons' the Government presently has in mind proposing are:

. limited efficiency, or an incapacity to perform work at a standard consistent with the efficient working of the organisation;

. loss of essential licence or qualification.

Q. Would the Bill allow the arbitrary sacking of public servants?

A. No. The Bill provides for the identification of staff whose services are not being used in the most efficient manner practicable. Staff can only be identified on specified

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grounds, in accordance with criteria and procedures to be notified in the Gazette. Before retirement can take place, alternative employment opportunities must be thoroughly explored and all staff have rights of appeal to an independ­ ent tribunal against decisions taken under the legislation.

Q. How will the Bill affect the concept of the career service? .

A. ‘ Not at all. The concept of a Public Service with security of tenure for career officials has always been subject to provisions in the Public Service Act relating to termination of employment of surplus officers, retirement on the grounds of invalidity, inefficiency or incompetence, and.dismissal on disciplinary grounds. The Bill does not affect the dis- . cip1inary provisions of the Public Service Act, and modifies . the other provisions mentioned which have been described in

the past as being of too summary a nature, by providing a more extensive range of appeal rights available to staff affected, and by setting out more clearly the framework with­ in which decisions are taken. Indeed, if this Bill were the

present law and the existing provisions of the Public Service Act were being introduced in replacement - ie the reversal of the present situation - the outcry from the present.critics of this Bill would be deafening.

Q. Is there any minimum age for compulsory retirement under the Bill?

A. No . The· Bill does not specify any minimum age for identific­ ation or compulsory retirement of employees. The Bill is intended to ensure the most efficient and economical use practicable of the services of Commonwealth employees and

it would hardly seem appropriate that it should be restricted in its application to employees above a certain age. The present provisions of the Public Service Act relating to surplus officers, invalidity and inefficiency or incompetence do not include any reference to age limits.

Q. Who will be entitled to the special benefits under the Bill?

A. Regulations will provide for persons between the.ages of 55 and 60 who are retired under the legislation *for any other reason* to receive a lump sum payment, convertible to pension at choice, equivalent to 2 months' salary for each year of

service foregone up to age 60. This is, of course, in addit­ ion to superannuation entitlements. The special benefit recognises the particular difficulties persons in this age group may have in finding alternative employment.

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Q. What decisions can be appealed against, and what would be the effect of a successful appeal?

A. Employees have a right of appeal separately against each of:

. declaration as an employee identified as eligible for redeployment; ·

. any redeployment action taken; ■

. a decision that an identified employee cannot reasonably be· redeployed.

The particular grounds for appeal are not set out in the ' Bill, but the appeal tribunal will be required to apply . criteria, procedures and principles which the person or body making the initial decision was required to apply..

A successful appeal against any of the actions listed above would mean that the action would be reversed. The Bill .would ■ require that where redeployment action, or a decision that an employee could not be redeployed, is overturned the employee

must be restored to the employment situation existing immed­ iately before redeployment (or as near as practicable to it).

Q. Will a successful appeal mean that one of the appellant's workmates will be retired in his or her stead? .

A. No. An appeal tribunal can, under certain circumstances, join to an appeal by an employee declared in a situation of excess staff, any or all other employees in that situation whether or not they have been declared. In such circumstances

the tribunal has the power to substitute for the appellant's declaration a declaration in respect of one of the other parties to the appeal. It is intended that the regulations will require that when employees are joined to an appeal

they be advised and be given the same rights to make sub­ missions etc as the appellant. The purpose of these provis­ ions is- to ensure consistency and expedition in appeals where numbers of staff are involved in excess staff situations : in

such cases all staff involved would be given a chance for their case to be considered by the tribunal and the tribunal would be able to make a final decision on who should be declared excess. This category of appeal does not apply to retirement, it only applies to the determination of which staff are excess. This

is only the first step in the process. The next step is for action to be taken to seek to arrange alternative employment. Only where this fails is retirement possible, but an individ­ ual declared surplus as a result of the outcome of the appeal

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• by another Employee, retains the further separate rightsx of appeal against any redeployment action taken or a decision that redeployment is not practicable. ,

Q. Will there be any conditions on voluntary early retirement?

A.' Any person to whom the Bill applies will be able to choose to retire at any time after reachirg the age of 55,years. Persons doing so will be entitled to a. reduced pension calculated as a percentage of salary on retirement accord­

ing to age and length of service. .

Q. . Did the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administrat . ion make any recommendations on the matters dealt with in the Bill?

A. The RCAGA did not make detailed recommendations in this area but gave an endorsement to the philosophy embodied in the Bill in its Recommendation 178: '

1We recommend that the power to diagnose any excess . , of staff and to identify and take action regarding . particular redundant officers under section 20 be ' delegated to departmental^management. The Auditor-

General and the Public Service Board should aid departments in such diagnosis. However departments should only have power to retire such staff provis­ ionally. The department·should certify that no

suitable alternative employment exists within the department. Before retirement is confirmed, the Public Service Board should see if there is any suitable alternative employment for the officer available within the Service. When an officer is

judged redundant because of an assessment of relat- , ive worth or inefficiency, appeal should be allowed through the promotions appeal committee procedures.1 ·