Efficiency dividends, staffing caps and outsourcing of essential public services by successive governments has led to more expensive, lower quality, and less transparent service delivery, a gutting of the capabilities within the public sector, and APS employees having less job security and job satisfaction.
We support the suite of recommendations in this report to rebuild staffing levels, lift employment standards, and strengthen capabilities. These measures will empower the APS to meet the education, housing, health, social security, environmental protection, and infrastructure needs of the country.
It is clear that the hollowing out of public service capability creates a vicious circle that facilitates ongoing reliance on outsourced policy advice, less accountability and an inherent increased risk of corruption. We support
'in-sourcing' measures to reduce reliance on external consultants as recommended in this report.
However, greater transparency is required in situations where consultants continue to be used. All consultancy contracts valued at more than $50,000, and reports and other material prepared under those publicly funded contracts, should be tabled in parliament on a quarterly basis.
Removing restrictions on public servants
Lack of job security compounds existing constraints on public servants’ freedom to express political views in their private capacity, fearing it will reduce the prospect of contract renewal.
Public servants need to be clear and confident that they can participate in public debate without this impinging on their job. The Greens will legislate to protect the right of public servants in their private capacity to engage in political advocacy, attend rallies, run for public office, participate in their union, and represent or be elected to external organisations.
Experienced public servants can make an invaluable contribution to politics and should not be prevented from nominating for election to Federal parliament. The Greens will seek to repeal the current restrictions under section 44 of the Constitution to facilitate public servants running for Federal parliament without having to sacrifice their public sector careers.
Gender pay gap
We support Recommendations 34 and 35 requiring analysis of the persistent gender wage gap within the APS.
The Australian Greens have long called for gender equality reporting requirements to be extended to the public sector. We acknowledge the government’s commitment to do that and recommend that the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 be amended to give effect to that commitment.
Supporting inclusivity through employment and procurement policies
Given the significant investment in public sector employment and government contracts, APS employment policies, procurement and supply chain policies can help to encourage diversity, inclusivity and gender equality. The APS should take action to improve inclusivity and diversity, including:
setting procurement targets for women-led and gender-equal businesses to help those businesses to grow and incentivise gender equal employment practices
adopting supplier codes of conduct precluding businesses who have not met Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 reporting obligations from tendering for government services
increasing targets for APS workforce participation for disabled people to 20% by 2030, and working with the disability sector to implement strategies to achieve those targets
implementing targets for First Nations employment and graduate and mentoring programs to facilitate uptake and retention of First Nations employees.
Senator Larissa Waters
Greens Senator for Queensland