Chapter 1



On 1 December 2020, the following matter was referred to the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report by 31 October 2021:
The current capability of the Australian Public Service (APS) with particular reference to:
the APS’ digital and data capability, including co-ordination, infrastructure and workforce;
whether APS transformation and modernisation projects initiated since the 2014 Budget have achieved their objectives;
the APS workforce; and
any other related matters.1
On 27 October 2021, the reporting date was extended to 25 November 2021.

Conduct of the inquiry

Details of the inquiry were made available on the committee’s website and the committee invited a number of organisations and individuals to lodge submissions.
The committee received 32 submissions and a large volume of additional information, all of which are listed at Appendix 4 of this report.
The committee held a number of public hearings for the inquiry, as follows:
5 March 2021, Canberra;
20 July 2021, Canberra;
21 July 2021, Canberra;
26 July 2021, Canberra; and
6 August 2021, Canberra.
A list of witnesses who gave evidence at the hearings is available at Appendix 5 of this report.


The committee thanks all those who contributed to the inquiry by making submissions, providing additional information, and appearing at public hearings.

Content and structure of report

The committee does not intend for this report to function as an exhaustive assessment of the capability of the APS.
Many of the matters considered by the committee have already been extensively examined in the 2019 Independent Review of the APS (Thodey Review), chaired by Mr David Thodey AO.
The committee considers the final report of the Thodey Review to be a thorough and comprehensive evaluation of the state of the APS. Additionally, the committee considers that the 40 recommendations contained in the report constitute a sensible, well-considered set of suggestions that clearly chart a practical way for the APS to improve its capability into the future.
Given this, the committee has chosen to focus on specific elements of APS capability in line with the terms of reference for the inquiry. While many of these are closely inter-related, for ease of navigation the matters are dealt with separately as follows:
Chapter 2 sets out baseline information on the APS to provide context for the rest of the report.
Chapter 3 explores the extent of labour hire arrangements within the APS and the damaging impacts on capability.
Chapter 4 examines matters relating to the digital capability of the APS, with a focus on information and communication technology.
Chapter 5 looks at the use of consultants for public policy advice.
Chapter 6 briefly examines the procurement capability of the APS.
Chapter 7 canvasses matters relating to the strategic management of the APS workforce.
Chapter 8 delves into issues relating to the culture of the APS and contains the concluding observations of the committee.

  • 1
    Journals of the Senate, No. 75, 1 December 2020, p. 2639.

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