The Prime Minister is to lose the power to appoint the Secretaries of Commonwealth Departments under amendments to the Public Service Act currently before Parliament.
The power to appoint is to revert to the Governor-General but the 5-year terms will remain.
The amended law would also establish a Secretaries Board to replace the Management Advisory Committee; amend the role and responsibilities of the Senior Executive Service; clarify the role and functions of the Australian Public Service Commissioner; and allow for the appointment of Special Commissioners to assist in undertaking certain reviews.
G-G to be kingmaker in revised Act
According to the Government, the Public Service Amendment Bill strengthens governance arrangements for the Australian Public Service leadership, including reforms that strengthen the independence of Secretaries and provides a clear statement of their role and the performance expected of them.
The Bill also introduces a revised set of APS Values and provides for a set of APS Employment Principles which reinforce the importance of a positive culture and environment across the APS for a high-performing Public Service.
The Government said that while former Secretaries of Departments could be re-appointed to their positions, or to a different Department, the new Bill strengthens the apolitical nature of the APS by restoring the traditional arrangement dating back to 1922 in which the appointment and termination of Departmental Secretaries was a matter for the Governor-General.
It said this reform alone restored the ‘gold standard’ for integrity and consistency that had served the public sector for generations.
The Prime Minister retains the right to reshuffle the senior managers of the APS and the change is not expected to impact on the Government’s ability to sack non-performing Secretaries.
The moves were cautiously endorsed by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) with National Secretary, Nadine Flood saying any measures that ensured a free and independent APS were welcome.
“‘We are pleased to note this Bill has received bipartisan support and it goes a long way to fixing some long-standing issues in the PS Act,” Ms Flood told the Canberra Times.
More information on the reforms before Parliament can be accessed at this PS News link.