This report presents the findings from an Australian Public Service (APS) deliberative jury which was convened between the 13th and 14th February at Old Parliament House. In this first of what we hope will be a series of Chatham House deliberations we focused on the questions – what key elements of democratic trust are broken and what needs to change to create a trusted APS?
Nine recommendations for bridging the trust divide have been tabled for consideration by the Secretaries Board stimulated by the desire of jury members to serve the Australian community and support the needs and aspirations of Australian communities. These are:
- To maintain the central role of the APS in the Westminster advisory system the capability of the advisory system needs to be enhanced through the adoption of the best innovation and evidence-based practices
- To ensure that programs and services are fit for purpose citizen-centred design should be a first principle of policy and service development.
- To ensure that programs and services meet the needs and aspirations of the citizenry, the APS should embed a culture of authentic, early, regular and open citizen engagement to drive policy development.
- To counteract truth decay and communicate effectively with the citizenry,the APS needs to engage in public debate to justify actions, explain policy and present evidence in an honest and reliable way.
- To benefitfrom the diversity of knowledge and experience in different sectors APS staff should be mandated to rotations in other sectors and jurisdictions.
- To improve civic and whole of government understanding of public policy decision-making provide a public rightto know guarantee through an open government information framework (subjectto normal exemptions).
- To build strong and effective working relationships between Ministers, political advisers, and the APS develop collaborative learning and development opportunities and appoint senior departmental officers to adviser positions in Ministerial offices.
- To ensure a sustainable future build long term/ strategic policy systems on key policy issues (e.g. the economy, climate, ageing, geopolitics, education, health and wellbeing).
- To deliver on the APS’s role as defined by the 1999 Public Service Act we require courageous and authentic leadership at the senior executive level. This should be enshrined and measured through the achievement of its vision, putting public service values into practice, meeting its accountabilities and delivering positive outcomes for communities.
Our recommendations focus on building trusting working relationships between the APS and Minister’s offices, otherjurisdictions of government, the media system and the Australian citizenry. In addition, an emphasis is placed on inclusive policy-making forthe long term and building institutional capacity to adapt to longer term challenges beyond the short term electoral cycle. This willrequire reaffirmation of some ofthe key features ofthe Westminster model of parliamentary government; in particular, the independent nature of the APS and its ability to recruit its leadership free of political interference, discharge its stewardship role and meet the terms of the 1999 Public Service Act.
It will also require celebration of what is authentically Australian about our Westminster system and the central role of an independent APS in both maintaining and enabling public sector institutions and services to flourish.