Changes and key policies of Federal and State Governments

The following is a summary of internal structural changes within government and key policy directions, part of a regular update series developed by The Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG). This update was developed in December 2014 and updated in early 2015. Thanks to Nicole Barling-Luke at ANZSOG for this contribution.


Commonwealth Update

The Australian public service has become more top heavy and less mobile over the last 15 years. The trend towards a higher classification profile at least partly reflects the changing nature of APS employment, with a more skilled workforce undertaking increasingly complex and difficult roles, as well as outsourcing a number of more routine functions.

In its State of the Service 2014 report the Australian Public Service Commission records a total of 159,126 Commonwealth public servants, down 4.7% from June 2013 when the total was 167,051 – a reduction of nearly 8,000 employees in one year.

Women comprise 58% of the service but only 40% of the SES – up from 25% in 2000. The senior executive makes up 1.8% of the service with 75% of the SES based in the ACT.

Three departments comprise nearly half of the workforce: the Department of Human Services, the Department of Defence and the Department of Health represent 49.8% of the entire APS. Accordingly, the Departments of Health and Human Services have decreased their workforce by 30.5% and 4.3% respectively whilst the other large decrease was felt by the Australian Tax Office which lost 5.1% of its workforce. Meanwhile the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet increased its size by 210.9%, the Department of Social Services by 7% and Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development by 20.7%.

Australian Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick indicated that implementing a new government’s priorities, programs and structures had been a major challenge over the past year and suggested that the public sector environment will continue to change rapidly:

‘Both sides of politics are looking to the APS to help them reinvent government so they can deliver against the community’s rising expectations for services and engagement without dramatically higher taxation and while repairing the budget over time.’

Machinery of government changes

One agency was established in 2014:

Five agencies were abolished in 2014:

  • AusAID, with employees transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Federal Circuit Court, with employees transferred to Family Court and Federal Circuit Court
  • Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations, with employees transferred to the Department of Education and the Department of Employment
  • Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, with employees transferred to the Department of Industry
  • Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport, with employees transferred to various agencies.



The New South Wales Public Service Commission has released its State of the Sector report for 2014 with the theme ‘a better picture’, referring to comprehensive surveys of public sector employers, employees and customers which are designed to track performance over time and across jurisdictions. Together with the NSW PSC’s annual report, Workforce Bulletin and People Matter Survey, the report demonstrates a clear agenda for the NSW public sector: improved service delivery, cultural and structural change and increased productivity.

People Matter Survey 2014

The first bi-annual employee survey was conducted in 2012. Responses to 80% of survey statements have improved in the 2014 survey, which is significant as NSW has implemented a large set of reforms since 2012, including a new Capability Framework, Performance Management Framework and Recruitment Framework. The Government Sector Employment Act 2013 also legislated public sector values.

However, views on training, career and performance development opportunities were mixed with 65% of respondents agreeing that their organisation is committed to professional development. The NSW Employee Engagement Index is at 65%, up 4% on 2012. In comparison, Victoria’s Engagement Index is 67%.

The NSW public sector headcount is 396,036, down 0.8% on the same time last year (328,113 full time equivalent). 62.4% of the workforce is female. Frontline employees have increased since June 2013 with an additional 871 nurses, teachers and police (FTE).

Machinery of Government Changes

 Under the Government Sector Employment Act 2013, the PSC implemented reform to the senior executive cohort to make it leaner, more consistent and more mobile.

  • Senior Executive Band 4 – Secretaries
  • Senior Executive Band 3 – Deputy Secretaries and Agency Heads
  • Senior Executive Band 2 – Executive Directors and Agency Heads
  • Senior Executive Band 1 – Directors

In 2014, Finance and Services ceased as a separate department, becoming the Office of Finance and Services related to the Treasury. A new Planning and Environment cluster was formed from the relevant sections of the Department of Premier and Cabinet and Sydney Water Corporation aligned with the Trade, Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services portfolio.

Service Delivery

Australia’s first Customer Service Commissioner, Mr Mike Pratt, was appointed in 2012 and in 2014 the Commissioner conducted the first Customer Satisfaction Measurement Instrument, a customer service survey indicating generally high satisfaction with government services. Improved service delivery is a legislated objective in NSW. Since mid-2013, Service NSW has provided a single transaction point for a range of routine government business such as driver licensing.

Post-election Ministry

Mike Baird’s Ministry is 23% women (5 Ministers out of total 22), he has appointed NSW’s first female Attorney General, Gabrielle Upton, the first female Treasurer, Gladys Berejiklian and has appointed a Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Pru Goward.

There are now 16 Parliamentary Secretaries, with first-time dedicated Secretaries for the five regions.

"These positions will report direct to Cabinet each quarter and will hold Ministers to account for delivery of the Coalition's election commitments across the regions."

Machinery of Government

  • Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services abolished and is now the Department of Industry, Skills and Regional Development
  • Ministry for Police and Emergency Services is transferred into Department of Justice
  • Department of Family and Community Services becomes Department of Communities (has gained Office of Communities)
  • Department of Education and Communities becomes Department of Education
  • Veteran’s Affairs transferred from DPC into Justice
  • Women NSW transferred from FACS into Health
  • Office of Finance and Services is now the Department Finance, Service and Innovation
  • Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority transferred from Department Planning and Environment to Finance.

Public Service

Mark Paterson (Trade) and Phil Gaetjens (Treasury) will not continue in their roles. Simon Smith will become Secretary of Industry, Skills and Regional Development replacing Paterson. A Treasury, Transport and Finance Secretary are yet to be confirmed.

Prior to the election Baird stated there’ll be increased attention to the efficiency of service delivery across the whole public sector. Heads of Departments and line managers will be judged on their performance in improving service delivery.

“The culture I’m trying to spread across the public sector is that there is an accountability about the services we are delivering, [and] the time we are taking.”

Costings released pre-election revealed the Coalition government will see 1.5% cut / ‘efficiency dividend’ across the board, front line services will be exempt targeting instead corporate services and other PS roles.  Savings are also expected from “implementation of whole of government procurement saving initiatives, cash management practices and elimination of unnecessary duplication across government”.

Baird has previously (July 2014) stated that NSW will actively prioritise the transformation of the public service in three ways:

  • Greater engagement, the public service will be able to see their roles in connection to the broader mission.
  • A focus on performance and performance management.
  • A focus on best practice, the public service will be encouraged to look outside and learn lessons.

Key policies

  • The Coalition’s 99 year lease of the power networks (Transgrid wholly and Ausgrid & Endeavour Energy 50.4%) is intended to provide the assets for a $20 billion fund for infrastructure. This will include a second Sydney Harbour rail crossing, a boost to urban public transport, ease of congestion and regional infrastructure.
  • There will be significant resources spent on hospital and health service upgrades, and an early rollout of the NDIS in Penrith and Blue Mountains.

The Coalition has announced a free vocational training policy for disadvantaged young people, an increase in police numbers, a Social Housing Community Improvement Fund and a crack-down on drugs.

Table 1. NSW Ministry

Table 1. NSW Ministry


QLD following 2015 election:

Premier Palaszczuk’s government is comprised of 14 ministers and 1 assistant minister (8 women, 7 men), dropping from Newman’s 19. Significant responsibility has been assumed by Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and Treasurer Curtis Pitt. There has been an appointment of the first ever Minister for the Great Barrier Reef and the first female Indigenous Member of Parliament, Leeane Enoch.

The budget will be released in mid-July, later than estimated in part due to Cyclone Marcia.


The number of agencies has remained unchanged, the main adjustments are:

  • Employment has moved out of the Department of Education, Training and Employment into Treasury, Treasury has also gained responsibility for public sector industrial relations from the PSC.
  • Infrastructure has moved from State Development into the new Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning
  • Multicultural affairs has shifted from Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships into Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services

The only Director-General who has been confirmed is Dave Stewart, appointed to Department of Premier and Cabinet replacing Jon Grayson. Queensland Health Director-General Ian Maynard has left his position.  All other Director-Generals have been advised they will need to re-apply for their positions, the merit-based selection process has begun and is expected to be finalised by mid-year.

Positions we know thus far (20th July):

Table 2. QLD Ministry

Table 2. QLD Ministry


This process will undoubtedly be an uncertain time for QLD departments.

Public Service Workforce

Between 2011 and 2013 there was a decrease in the size of the service, since June 2013 – June 2014 however there has been an increase by 3721 FTE (1.94%). The decrease was attributed to the Establishment Management Program (EMP), natural attrition and the Voluntary Separation Program.

The latest available data (September 2014) shows:

  • Since the last quarter there has been an increase of 437.27 FTE employees in QLD PS with a total of 196 191.42 employees (an increase of 0.24%)
  • The overall gender division is 129 080.95 female and 67 110.47 male
  • Senior executives and equivalent are still predominantly male, 3 700.29 to 1 873.06 female
  • Department of Health is the largest department employing: 71 081.1 FTE
  • Education, Training and Employment, previously (June 2013) the largest department is sitting on 63 567.36 (now 2nd largest) with 4204 of their staff moving to TAFE QLD.

Premier Palaszczuk has repeatedly stated that no further job losses will be undertaken in the PS.


Victoria following 2014 election:

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews was sworn in on December 4 and immediately began changes to the machinery of government, centralising and streamlining responsibility for key areas.

From 1 January 2015 the nine Victorian departments will be reduced to seven:

  • Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (Richard Bolt)
  • Department of Education and Training (Gill Callister)
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (Adam Fennessy)
  • Department of Health and Human Services (Pradeep Philip)
  • Department of Justice and Regulation (Greg Wilson)
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet (Chris Eccles)
  • Department of Treasury and Finance (David Martine).

The Office of Living Victoria, responsible for water policy, will be abolished.

Of the 22 ministers in the new Labor cabinet nine are women and seven served in the Brumby administration. The average age of the cabinet is a relatively young 47.2.

Labor achieved a majority of between 45 and 48 seats (counting is ongoing) in the 88-seat legislative assembly but could not secure a majority in the legislative council. The Premier has stated that his first priorities are to introduce the Back to Work bill to parliament, inject funding into the TAFE sector and end the paramedic pay dispute.

With many portfolios coming under the umbrella of the DPC, concerns are being raised about whether this will compromise the department’s core function of providing centralised policy advice. Some other departments are also very large and could potentially be unwieldy for their secretaries. The splitting of environment and agriculture could be especially disruptive given the merger of DSE and DPI just last year.

No public sector jobs will be lost as a result of the changes.