From the Secretary
The year 2012–13 was a year of challenge and achievement for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), as it was for the public sector as a whole. We supported a complex and busy Government agenda through another year of minority government, playing a policy and implementation leadership and coordination role in relation to major national reforms in areas as diverse as disability, international affairs and education.
It was also a year in which PM&C progressed some important internal work arising from last year’s Capability Review and a year in which we led the early development of a strategy to enhance and embed greater Asia-relevant capabilities across the Australian Public Service (APS).
We met each of our 2012–13 key performance indicators. We supported the Prime Minister and Government in relation to the Cabinet processes, Ministerial and machinery of government changes, legal and constitutional questions and the legislation program.
As always, the overwhelming bulk of our work over the course of the year was dedicated to the pursuit of Prime Ministerial and Governmental priorities. A highlight was the finalisation of a major, national social-policy reform – the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), now called DisabilityCare Australia (DCA). We played a leadership and coordination role in the development of the scheme both through joint leadership with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs of the NDIS Taskforce and our support of the Prime Minister at the COAG.
Also in the domestic sphere, we participated, with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, in the development of national schools funding reforms and the National Plan for School Improvement.
Both these reforms involved a significant investment of PM&C personnel and resources over long periods.
Other highlights of the year involved shorter, sharper immersion in one-off or emerging Government priorities. For example, to tight deadlines, we collaborated with APS and State and Territory colleagues to determine the parameters of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and helped establish the Royal Commission.
The year also saw the establishment, in collaboration with other Commonwealth agencies, of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, the new central clearing house for cyber events of national importance.
And in collaboration with the Department of Health and Ageing we developed a $4.1 billion policy to provide basic dental treatment to children and low-income adults.
In the international arena, we supported in Australia’s successful bid to secure a seat on the United Nations Security Council and the Government’s preparations for the end of Australia’s military and civilian mission in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province.
The year 2012–13 also saw the release by the Prime Minister of a White Paper on Australia’s engagement with the Asian region – Australia in the Asian Century. The White Paper was the culmination of a significant amount of work by the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper Taskforce, hosted by PM&C. The White Paper continues to have significant, direct implications for the Department as we lead the effort to embed Asia-relevant knowledge and skills into the core skill set of APS officers.
The Prime Minister’s international focus during the year was very much on the region and Australia’s regional partnerships. We supported that focus through our policy advice and our coordination and support of Prime Ministerial visits to India, China, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Indonesia.
On 1 December 2013 Australia will assume the presidency of the G20, the premier forum for economic policy cooperation among the major economies of the world. Ahead of Australia’s hosting of the G20 Leaders Summit in 2014, we have spent the past year building operational and policy capacity to ensure a smooth and successful presidency.
On 1 December 2012 Australia became a member of the G20 ‘troika’ – comprising the past, current and future chairs of the G20. As troika member and future host, we have worked closely with 2013 G20 president Russia to help prepare outcomes for a productive agenda in 2014.
PM&C has always worked for the Government of the day and worked to support the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of the day. In late June 2013 staff from PM&C worked to effect the transition from Prime Minister Gillard to Prime Minister Rudd. In short timeframes we provided essential advice, met the needs of the outgoing Prime Minister, the incoming Prime Minister and established and formalised the new Ministry, as we have done for each and every Ministry since the establishment of the Department in 1911.
PM&C’s priority is to continue to be the first and best source of advice and support to the Prime Minister of the day. To that end, as Secretary, I seek to recruit the best (on merit), retain the best (with satisfying and challenging work), and collaborate actively right across the APS and beyond.
As the central agency of the APS, we take seriously our role as a steward of the conventions and knowledge of the public service. At the same time we take seriously our duty to lead through innovation and excellence.
Over the past year our senior leadership has been considering the results of the Department’s recent Capability Review and ways in which we can respond to its recommendations relating to collaboration and inclusiveness.
We work hard to cultivate a positive and challenging work culture, and to inculcate in our ranks something we refer to as the PM&C ‘Craft’. Essentially, this is a way of working to support, with the best possible advice and the best possible service, the Prime Minister of the day, the Cabinet, our Portfolio Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries and the Government. This involves a commitment to collaboration, across the Department, across the APS and across the community.
I am a strong believer that the public service ought to reflect the diversity of the citizenry it serves. As Head of the APS, and Chair of the APS Diversity Council, I drive an agenda of workplace diversity across the service, as well as within the Department.
Recent work in this area includes the finalisation of the third PM&C Reconciliation Action Plan and progress in relation to women in leadership positions. As one of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s Male Champions of Change, I am proud to lead a Department in which more than half of our most senior leadership positions are occupied by women.
As Head of the APS my determination is to see more women in leadership positions right across the service. I will tolerate no complacency within my own workplace either, which is why, in the past year, I have supported the establishment of the PM&C Women’s Network, to advise me on structural and cultural barriers to the advancement of women within the Department.
Finally, at PM&C excellence should be, and is, rewarded. To recognise exceptional individual and team performance and celebrate examples of the PM&C ‘Craft’ in action I have, in the past 12 months, instituted a twice-yearly presentation of Secretary’s Awards for Excellence. Those recognised have made a great contribution to PM&C, to the Australian Government and to Australia.
The Year Ahead
2013–14 will be another busy year for PM&C.
As always, we will work hard to ensure that we remain the first choice for dependable and strategic advice and support to the Prime Minister.
Our early focus, in the wake of the 2013 Federal Election, will be on serving the incoming Prime Minister and, where necessary, adjusting our existing processes and priorities to support the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Government.
This may include facilitating machinery of government changes, as well as supporting the development and implementation of new government policy in collaboration with other departments and agencies.
Another primary focus of the year will be our G20 presidency: finalising the agenda, hosting meetings of ministers and officials and preparing for the G20 Leaders Summit to be held in Brisbane in November 2014.
The Brisbane G20 Leaders Summit will be the most significant meeting of world leaders Australia has hosted. Dozens of heads of state and heads of government, 4,000 delegates and 3,000 domestic and international media professionals will come to Brisbane, with significant supporting events in other locations.
PM&C’s G20 Taskforce is a large special-purpose operational team. The Taskforce coordinates Australia’s G20 policies, manages logistics and co-ordinates security for the suite of G20 meetings and will continue discussions both inside and outside the G20 to ensure that the forum has a ‘whole of G20’ agenda, containing actions to create jobs, lift growth, strengthen resilience and enhance the G20’s reputation.
In 2013–14 we will continue to lead the work being carried out to enhance Asia-specific capabilities at all levels and across all agencies of the APS, as the centre of global economic output shifts to the Asian region. This will not be the work of a single year, but the focus of many years to come. Increasingly, Asia-specific capabilities won’t be regarded as ‘specialist’ skills, but part of the general suite of skills expected of all public servants, from those in front-line service-delivery jobs through to senior decision-makers.
The coming year will be one of fiscal restraint across the APS, and we will not be immune. A more stringent fiscal situation is a powerful signal to innovate and find ways to be more effective and efficient. As always, we will be judged by the manner in which we respond creatively and proactively to a challenge.
I J Watt
Public Service Medal recipients and Secretary's Excellence Awards
The Public Service Medal recognises outstanding service by employees of the Australian Government and State, Territory and local government employees. In the past year, two PM&C staff received the award: Ms Pip Spence, First Assistant Secretary, Cabinet Division, for her outstanding public service and her contribution to the Australian community through the telecommunications regulations reform associated with the implementation of the National Broadband Network; and Ms Renée Leon, Deputy Secretary, Governance, for outstanding public service to public administration and law in leadership roles in the Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth.
The Secretary’s Excellence Awards are designed to recognise individuals or teams that have achieved above and beyond their normal duties and have made an outstanding contribution to the Department. In 2012–13 those recognised for their achievements were:
- the team that helped produce 2012 The Year Ahead: Our Plans for Australia, the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper Taskforce, the staff involved in providing support for the Prime Minister’s visit to China and the NDIS Taskforce – for Excellence in Team Performance
- Emma Rees, Susan Fitzgerald, Nicole Middleton, Sam Gounder and Lee Gordon – for Excellence in Leadership and Collaboration
- Simon Rees – for Excellence in Improving Our Organisation
- David Denney and David Pullen – for Excellence in Innovation
- Theresa Manning and Alison Jenkins – for Excellence in Supporting and Promoting Diversity in the Workplace.