Australian Public Service

Budget Review 2013–14 Index

Dr Nicholas Horne

Portfolio responsibility

The Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio has primary responsibility for Australian Public Service (APS) matters. The Portfolio, which includes the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), has responsibility for a range of APS-related matters including:

  • administration of the central item of APS legislation, the Public Service Act 1999 (Cth)
  • coordination of ‘workplace relations for Australian Government employment’ and administration of ‘enterprise bargaining agreements’
  • ‘co-ordination of government administration’, and
  • the APS reform process as set out in the 2010 Blueprint for the Reform of Government Administration.[1]

The statutory financial framework under which APS agencies operate is administered by the Finance and Deregulation portfolio; this portfolio also deals with government financial accountability and governance.[2] Under the financial framework APS agencies are generally responsible for managing their own operating resources.

Australian Public Service staffing 2007–12

The table and figure below give annual figures for total APS staffing (ongoing and non-ongoing staff) over the five-year period between June 2007 and June 2012 as well as at December 2012 (the most recent data).

The figures include staff employed under the Public Service Act 1999 but do not include staff employed in Commonwealth-owned companies, statutory authorities, the Australian Defence Force, or staff in government business enterprises who are not employed under the Public Service Act 1999.

Table 1: Total Australian Public Service staff, 2007–12

As at

Total APS staff
(ongoing + non-ongoing)

Approx. percentage change over the period

31 Dec 2012


– 1.6%

30 June 2012


+ 1.2%

30 June 2011


+ 1.1%

30 June 2010


+ 1.6%

30 June 2009


+ 1.3%

30 June 2008


+ 2.8%

30 June 2007


Sources: Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), Australian Public Service Statistical Bulletin 2011–12, APSC, Canberra, 2012, p. 12; APSC, SnAPShots December 2012, APSC, Canberra, 2013.

Figure 1: Total Australian Public Service staff, 2007–12

Figure 1:	Total Australian Public Service staff, 2007–12

Over the five-year period between June 2007 and June 2012 the APS experienced modest growth, with an overall increase of 12,782 staff (approx. 8.2 per cent). In the six months between June and December 2012 APS staffing declined by 2,608 staff (approx. 1.6 per cent). As at December 2012 total APS staff constituted approx. 1.4 per cent of the workforce.[3]

Current issues

Efficiency dividend

The efficiency dividend is an annual funding reduction for Australian government agencies and has been in place for 25 years. The dividend is not only applied to APS agencies (such as the main Departments of State) but also to non-APS agencies within the General Government Sector such as the Australian Federal Police and the parliamentary departments.[4]

The 2012–13 Budget imposed a 2.5 per cent one-off increase in the efficiency dividend for the 2012–13 financial year (the increase had previously been announced in the November 2011 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook).[5] The increase, which raised the overall efficiency dividend rate for 2012–13 from 1.5 per cent to 4.0 per cent, was estimated to result in savings of $1.5 billion over 2012–15.[6] A number of agencies were exempted from the increase.

The underlying efficiency dividend annual rate of 1.5 per cent was itself an increase from the base annual rate of 1.25 per cent; this increase was announced in April 2011 and is intended to apply over 2011–13 before returning to 1.25 per cent.[7]

Review of the Commonwealth financial framework

In 2010 the government commenced a review of the existing financial framework governing the financial activities of Commonwealth entities including APS agencies.[8] The review has progressed to the stage where legislation intended to replace the current statutory regime is scheduled for introduction in the 2013 winter sittings.[9]

Enterprise agreements

In 2011 the government introduced a new employment bargaining framework to be applied by APS agencies in regard to employees engaged under the Public Service Act 1999. One element of the new framework was a recommended nominal expiry date for all APS enterprise agreements of 30 June 2014.[10] The negotiation of new agency enterprise agreements will be a significant feature of the APS budgetary landscape in the 2013–14 financial year.

Bullying and harassment

In its most recent State of the Service report the APSC noted that ‘[f]or most of the last decade, between 15% and 19% of APS employees in each year have reported experiencing harassment and/or bullying in the workplace’, and noted that ‘[t]he reported level of bullying and harassment in the APS remains worryingly high’.[11]

In 2012 the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment conducted an inquiry into workplace bullying. In regard to the public sector, the Committee stated that ‘[t]he reported prevalence of workplace bullying within the public sector is particularly concerning’.[12] The Committee focused on the potential for public sector fitness for duty mental health assessments to be used as a form of bullying.[13]

The APSC has stated that it will study the Committee’s report ‘for identified risk factors and recommendations for strategies that may assist APS workplaces to reduce harassment and bullying’.[14]

[1].       See Australian Government, Portfolio Budget Statements 2013–14: budget related paper no. 1.14: Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio, 2012, pp. 3, 5, 85, accessed 16 May 2013; Australian Government, Administrative Arrangements Order, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 9 February 2013, pp. 20–21, 34–35, accessed 16 May 2013.

[2].       A chart showing all agencies and bodies within the statutory financial framework is available from the Department of Finance and Deregulation (DoFD) website.

[3].       Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 6202.0—Labour Force, Australia, ABS, May 2013, p. 12, accessed 16 May 2013.

[4].       For a discussion of the efficiency dividend see N Horne, The Commonwealth efficiency dividend: an overview, Background Note, 13 December 2012, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2012, accessed 16 May 2013. The General Government Sector ‘comprises all government departments, offices and some other bodies’ and ‘provides public services that are mainly non-market in nature and for the collective consumption of the community, or involve the transfer or redistribution of income’: Australian Government, Budget Strategy and Outlook: Budget Paper No. 1: 2013–14, 2012, p. 9–16, accessed 16 May 2013.

[5].       Ibid., p. 1–13; Australian Government, Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2011–12, 2011, accessed 16 May 2013, p. 216.

[6].       Australian Government, Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2011–12, ibid.

[7].       P Wong (Minister for Finance and Deregulation), Driving efficiencies in government, media release, 21 April 2011, p. 1, accessed 16 May 2013.

[8].       DoFD, ‘Commonwealth Financial Accountability Review’, DoFD website, accessed 16 May 2013.

[9].       The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Bill; see Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), Legislation proposed for introduction in the 2013 winter sittings, DPMC, Canberra, 2013, p. 4, accessed 16 May 2013.

[10].      Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), Australian Public Service bargaining framework: supporting guidance, APSC, Canberra, 2011, p. 8, accessed 16 May 2013.

[11].      APSC, State of the Service Report 2011–12, APSC, Canberra, 2012, p. 12, accessed 16 May 2013. The percentage figures refer to respondents to the APSC’s annual State of the Service employee survey.

[12].      House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment (HRSCEE), Workplace bullying: we just want it to stop, The House of Representatives, Canberra, 2012, p. 99, accessed 16 May 2013.

[13].      Ibid., pp. 98–101. The Committee recommended a number of actions including a review of how fitness for duty assessments are used in response to bullying and ensuring adequate safeguards for appropriate use.

[14].      APSC, State of the Service Report 2011–12, op. cit., p. 63. 

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