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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12815

Mr GEORGIOU —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs in his capacity as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service. Would the minister inform the House of the implications of the new Public Service Act for the delivery of good government and better services for all Australians?

Dr KEMP (Education, Training and Youth Affairs; Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Kooyong for his question and I acknowledge his great interest in Public Service reform and, indeed, his contribution to the development of the new legislation. Today is a historic day in the history of the Australian Public Service, because it is the first working day that the Public Service is operating under the new Public Service Act 1999. The passage and proclamation of this act, which was proclaimed yesterday, represents a fundamental overhaul of Australian public sector management and is a major step forward to providing the basis for a high performance Australian Public Service. The old act was highly pre scriptive, very long, very complex. It led to a process driven Public Service. The new act is one which is significantly shorter—some 47 pages; it is less than one-fifth the size of the old Public Service Act. It is accessible, understandable and written in plain English, and it articulates the distinctive character of the Australian Public Service and what the Australian Parliament expects of it. The detailed prescription of the 1922 act has been replaced by a clear statement of principles, values and the code of conduct.

One of the major features of the new legislation is that it devolves employment responsibility to agency heads and vests in them the flexibility and authority to run their agencies in the way that best suits their clients, the Australian people, and the government of the day. Accountability for the use of those powers has been enhanced. Merit is, for the first time, defined clearly in legislation and will continue to be the cornerstone of employment decisions within the Public Service. Particularly importantly, the new act contains protections and a clearer statement of an apolitical Public Service. For the first time, there is a legislative requirement that the Public Service uphold defined values, including that it is apolitical and that it performs its functions in an impartial and professional manner.

I want to thank all those associated with the development of this new legislation—particularly the Public Service and Merit Protection Commission and those members of the House who contributed to the development of this new act. I am sure that we will see the Australian Public Service develop as a creative and flexible service which is geared now to fully meet the needs of its clients in the Australian community.