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Thursday, 8 September 1983
Page: 595

Mrs KELLY(4.48) —I listened with interest to the comments from the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock). I was quite amazed to hear his speech which went on for 20 minutes. Only in the last two minutes did he make any reference at all to the issue of morale or reform generally in the Australian Public Service. I think it is very typical of the attitude members of the Opposition have had to the Public Service when they were in government over the last seven years. I was quite amazed by the honourable member's moral indignation and his discussion about performance and morale in the Public Service when the previous Government, of which he was a supporter, spent the last seven years of its administration blaming the Public Service for every single fault that that Government made.

The Public Service Amendment Bill before us today-it is a very straightforward Bill-deals mainly with administrative measures to provide temporary employment opportunities in the Public Service under the community employment scheme. But I believe this Bill, which amends the Public Service Act, must be seen in the context of the Labor Government's commitment to ongoing reform of the Public Service and sound administrative practice. The Labor Government is concerned about setting high standards for public administration and ensuring that efficient management practices are adopted throughout the Public Service.

We on this side of the House have been so concerned about the low morale in the Public Service which was generated by the previous Administration and years of neglect of very constructive policies for the Public Service that while we were in opposition we established a special task force on government administration to develop strong and effective policies on public administration to be implemented on attaining government. Our policy paper on the quality of government was distributed publicly last year and was widely acclaimed for its sensible and constructive recommendations. We are now proceeding to implement these recommendations under the leadership of the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins). I am delighted that these reforms are now taking place. They are welcomed by the Public Service generally. As a representative in this House of many public servants-in fact 68 per cent of my work force-I can assure the honourable member for Dundas that, in fact, morale is improving quite dramatically in the Public Service. Public servants welcome these reforms.

We are not interested in reform simply for reform's sake. Rather we have closely examined all the recommendations of previous inquiries into public administration. There were many inquiries because the previous Government had a policy of: 'When in doubt set up another review'. The only trouble is that it did not act on any of the recommendations of those reviews. Honourable members will recall that the Coombs Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration made recommendations early in the 1970s. Very few of those recommendations were taken up by the previous Administration. We then had the report of the Reid Committee of Review of Commonwealth Administration. I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee which inquired into the training of senior managers of the Public Service.

This Government has taken a strong policy on government administration. It is prepared to implement many of the recommendations of these reports. The quality of government paper is our blueprint which we are now putting into effect. We believe that good administrative practice is essential for good government. We believe strongly that the people of Australia are entitled to good management of our resources. To this end the Minister for Finance announced yesterday the first of a series of budgetary reform measures which will ensure greater public accountability in the management of resources. In presenting the departmental Estimates of 1983-84, the Minister drew attention to the new format of the document which provides a cross reference to data in the Budget Papers and contains a great deal more explanatory information. This will be of great assistance to the general public in obtaining a better understanding of government activities. In addition, the monthly statement of Commonwealth financial transactions also contains more explanatory material than in the past. This will facilitate a greater understanding of these government procedures. Other reform measures which illustrate the Government's commitment to promoting sound management practices are the new measures introduced to ensure better control of resources. Public servants are resource managers as well as policy managers. I will comment further on this later on.

To this end human resource budgeting has been integrated into the Budget process. Now all proposals for new staffing are to be considered by the Minister for Finance. A further major reform is the requirement that all future legislation presented to Parliament will be accompanied by financial impact statements. This will allow informed public debate on the impact of new legislation and it will ensure sound economic management of resources. The Australian Labor Government is committed to a steady program of reform in public administration. This Government, unlike the former Government, is concerned about implementing constructive reform measures combined with sound management practices which will ensure the efficient use of resources. We understand that it is essential that Public Service morale is maintained and that constructive reform measures need to be adopted in order to ensure good government in Australia.

I believe a great deal of reform is required to correct the imbalance in the number of women-the lack of women-particularly in the top echelons of the Public Service. In the 1982-83 Public Service Board annual report which was released this week the statistics speak for themselves. In the First Division there are no women. In the Second Division there are only 30 women out of a total of 1,310 ; that is, only two per cent of Second Division officers are women. In the Third Division there are 18,642 women out of a total of just over 69,000; that is, only 26 per cent of Third Division officers are women.

Clearly much greater attention must be paid to providing equal employment opportunities in the Public Service. The Government has already stated its commitment to the Sex Discrimination Bill. This will be an important beginning. In addition, a Green Paper discussing affirmative action proposals for public and private employment is being prepared and is expected to go before the Cabinet this month. A further measure which will be of great assistance is the upgrading of the Office of Women's Affairs and its move to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. In time all these measures will help to redress the present imbalance and will promote equal employment opportunities in the Public Service. Public Service senior management practices have also received attention . I am glad to see that the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) is in the House because he, like myself, was instrumental in putting out a number of proposals in relation to these issues.

Mr Ruddock —He is a very constructive contributor.

Mrs KELLY —He is very constructive. I am very pleased to see that the Public Service Board has adopted many of these proposals which will be followed through by the Minister for Finance who is present in the House. The Labor Government recognises the importance and significance of the efficiency of senior officers in the Public Service. It acknowledges that good management is necessary for good government. This view has been reinforced by report after report including the two hundred and second report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts entitled 'The Selection and Development of Senior Managers in the Commonwealth Public Service' and the report of the Committee of Review of Commonwealth Administration which is known as the Reid report. The report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts pointed out that the efficiency of senior Public Service managers is crucial to overall effectiveness and that there is 'an urgent need to improve public service management'. The report of the Committee of Review of Commonwealth Administration reinforced that view and indicated that a crucial factor in upgrading the performance of the Public Service lay in 'the quality and experience of senior management'.

As a member of the Public Accounts Committee responsible for the preparation of its 202nd report I welcome the progress already made by the Public Service Board in implementing some of the report's recommendations. The Public Service Board is convinced-as outlined in its annual report tabled yesterday-that it is essential and in the interests of effective performance of the Australian Public Service to upgrade further the selection and development of senior managers in the Service. Decisions already taken by the Public Service Board include a management course for all new entrants to the Second Division and a program of senior executive conferences to cover practical management issues for Second Division officers. These and other decisions are welcome. For too long there has been little recognition of the value and significance of senior managers in the Public Service. These reforms are not meant as criticisms of existing Second Division officers. They are simply a recognition of the fact that a government relies heavily on its senior public servants for advice and for the implementation of its policies. It therefore needs to ensure that senior public servants have the best possible training and qualifications for the job.

All these reforms are long overdue. Most of them have been recommended for years but, until now, they have been ignored. I am particularly pleased that I have been able to contribute to the development of the Government's public administration policies, both as a member of the task force on the transition to government and as a member of the Public Accounts Committee-as is the honourable member for Bradfield. I was also a member of the ongoing task force of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) on public service matters. It is most rewarding to hear sensible and constructive debate in this chamber on public service issues. I am only sorry that the honourable member for Dundas did not devote more of his time to discussing these matters. I hope that the honourable member for Bradfield who will follow me in this debate will give some heed to these points and make some constructive contribution to this debate.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) —Order! It might be timely for the Chair to intervene. Whilst the honourable member for Canberra is inviting other honourable members to transgress the question of relevance it might be timely if I drew the honourable member's attention to the fact that she has been accorded considerable latitude. I would like her to be more directly relevant to the Bill which, in itself, is not as widely embracing as her remarks would suggest.

Mrs KELLY —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Public Service Amendment Bill which is before the House enables the temporary employment provisions of the Public Service Act to be broadened so that unemployed people can gain temporary public service employment under the community employment program. In Canberra, where there is no State or local government, the Government has allocated an additional $1.5m over and above the per capita grant of $3.367m to compensate for the lack of State government contributions. That is very significant because it is the first time that the Australian Capital Territory has received recognition of the fact that it does not receive State topping-up funds. These funds will be of enormous benefit to the community where youth unemployment over the past years has been the highest in the country-up to 40 per cent. The funds will allow many valuable local community projects to go ahead and will be of enormous benefit to local residents as well as the unemployed. In Canberra, the Public Service is the largest source of employment. This Bill will be of great assistance in generating more employment opportunities. I commend the Bill to the House.