Annual Report
2013–14

From the Secretary

Late June 2013 and the next three months were unusual by the standards of Australian Government history. Three Prime Ministers in office, a general election and a change of governing party in such a short space of time is far from the norm in Australia. They meant significant change for PM&C and the APS, as well as for the Australian community as a whole.

PM&C responded well to the challenge and did so at a rapid pace. Following the swearing in of Prime Minister Rudd on 27 June 2013, we worked to bring into full effect the change of Prime Minister and Government. Thereafter, we worked through the caretaker period from 5.30pm on 5 August 2013 to 18 September 2013. Finally, we provided essential support for the change from Prime Minister Rudd to Prime Minister Abbott that started from the election on 7 September 2013. In all cases, we provided high quality, essential advice, worked to meet the needs of the outgoing and incoming Prime Ministers and established and formalised the new Ministries, as we have done for each Ministry since the establishment of the Department in 1911.

Changes to the Administrative Arrangements Order following the 2013 election resulted in new functions for PM&C in the delivery of Indigenous affairs policy and programmes, reducing the burden of government regulation, and the delivery of women’s policies and programmes. There has been a significant effort across the Department to support these changes and adapt to a workforce that grew from 798 staff in one location at 30 June 2013 to 2,467 in 110 locations at 30 June 2014, while still continuing to focus on our core role of providing expert support and policy advice directly to Government.

Performance

We supported the Prime Minister and Government in relation to the Cabinet processes, Ministerial and machinery of government changes, Indigenous affairs, domestic policy, international policy and national security, legal and constitutional issues, and the legislation program.

We met most of our key performance indicators (KPIs) and deliverables over the year, including those transferred to us with the Indigenous Affairs role. The exceptions included one KPI from the Supplementary Indigenous Programmes – Higher Education Vocational Education and Training, and five deliverables across three programmes including Indigenous Capability and Development, the Supplementary Recurrent Assistance VET Programme and the Indigenous Employment Programme.

The Australian Government is committed to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians. The Prime Minister’s commitment to this goal has been demonstrated through the movement of most Indigenous-specific policy and programmes into PM&C, supported by a Cabinet Minister for Indigenous Affairs and a Parliamentary Secretary.

We supported this commitment by working with Government to deliver its priorities to get children into schools, adults into jobs and ensuring safer communities. This resulted in the implementation of the Remote School Attendance Strategy in 73 remote and regional schools in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory; helping 16,591 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into jobs; and the construction of two police stations in the Northern Territory.

We supported the implementation of the Government’s key election commitments – stopping the boats, the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes and the reframing of the Budget. We have also supported the implementation of key policies like the One-Stop Shops on environmental approvals and Australian Victims of Terror Overseas Payments.

In March 2014 we assisted the transition between Governors-General, from the Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO to His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd).

In April 2014, we coordinated the programme and arrangements for the Royal Visit to Australia of Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.

We supported the Australian Government in the cementing of its ties in the region: China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Japan and South Korea in particular. We also supported the continued enhancement of our already strong relations with our ally the United States, and our close partners Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Australia’s presidency of the G20 forum, assumed in December 2013, has also been a focus of much of our work as have the preparations for the G20 Leaders Summit to be held in Brisbane from 15 November 2014.

Over the year we supported two COAG meetings with States and Territories. Through these, there has been agreement to an Asset Recycling Initiative to help stimulate infrastructure development, deregulation priorities to remove unnecessary red tape, and more cooperative work to ensure improved school attendance of Indigenous students.

We coordinated the Government’s first Repeal Day on 26 March 2014, resulting in $700 million in deregulatory savings.

In 2013–14 progress towards three White Papers was made including the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia (release of the Green Paper in June 2014), the White Paper on Agricultural Competitiveness (release of an issues paper in February 2014) and the White Paper on Reform of the Federation (release of the Terms of Reference in June 2014).

Departmental Restructure

We have increased in size and role as a result of machinery of government changes. The Department welcomed staff responsible for delivery of most Indigenous-specific policies and programmes, the Office for Women, the Office of Deregulation and the Office of Best Practice Regulation. PM&C has also had responsibility for supporting the Renewable Energy Target Review, the Forrest Review and the National Industry, Investment and Competitiveness Agenda. The Department has also established taskforces to develop White Papers on Developing Northern Australia, Agricultural Competitiveness, and the Reform of the Federation.

PM&C People

In 2013–14 we made a significant investment in developing and enhancing the capacity of our employees in order to meet the needs of the Department and the broader Australian Public Service (APS), particularly in the areas of leadership, change management and policy development. We are working to ensure we have the skills to work collaboratively within the APS to deliver the Government’s agenda, leading through partnership.

There has been a decrease in recruitment activity over 2013–14. However we continued to offer opportunities through a range of entry-level recruitment programmes.

The Year Ahead

We will continue to provide advice to the Prime Minister, our Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, the Cabinet and the Government to support the implementation of new and existing policies and programmes, in collaboration with other departments and agencies.

A significant number of preparatory meetings have been held throughout 2013–14 in the lead-up to the Brisbane G20 Leaders Summit. More preparatory events will be held in early 2014–15. The summit will be a significant international event. Leaders from the major advanced and emerging economies, 4,000 delegates and 3,000 domestic and international media professionals will come to Brisbane for the summit. The Department will continue to provide policy support, manage logistics, and coordinate security for G20 meetings.

We will continue to support the Government as it develops and implements its key policies. In particular, PM&C will work with other Commonwealth agencies to support the counter-terrorism policies and the roll out of the Government’s Infrastructure agenda, to develop a new Paid Parental Leave scheme, to review the funding adequacy of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and to develop laws to make it easier for Australian couples to adopt children from overseas.

In the 2014–15 Budget, the Government announced significant reforms to the structure and delivery of Indigenous-specific programmes. The Indigenous Advancement Strategy consolidated 150 separate programmes into five new flexible outcomes-focused programmes on 1 July 2014, with the full transition to the new arrangements occurring over time. The strategy will be matched by enhanced engagement with Indigenous Australians and changes to the network of regional officers that deliver the programmes.

We will work to provide advice to Government on its response to recommendations made by the Forrest Review, which aim to create parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. We will also continue working to progress constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A number of White Papers will be finalised in the coming year. The Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper will help set the policy directions for the Government on a more profitable and competitive agricultural sector. The White Paper on Developing Northern Australia will set out a clear, well-defined and timely platform for helping realise the economic potential of the north, including a plan for implementing these policies over the next two, five, 10 and 20 years. The White Paper on the Reform of the Federation will seek to clarify roles and responsibilities within the Federation and the resulting implications.

The coming year will again be a challenging one of supporting the Government’s agenda in a period of fiscal restraint. We are closely focused on sensibly reducing the cost of our activities.

Finally, PM&C will continue to deliver for the Government high quality and timely advice across the policy board. We will develop and implement, timely and effectively, key policies across the portfolio’s areas of responsibility. That is as it should be.

I J Watt

Secretary

PM&C staff

photographs of all staff members of the Department
photographs of all staff members of the Department, continued