It is not lost on anyone who has closely read the Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration or ‘Moran Report’ (after Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet head Terry Moran) that this was very much an initiative of Kevin Rudd’s.
The membership of the Advisory Group has a very heavy representation of people with central agency experience and was almost completely absent of any current, long term Canberra departmental secretaries. Of the three current departmental secretaries in the Group (Ken Henry, Robyn Kruk and Terry Moran) only Henry could be regarded as a long term Canberra bureaucrat.
Moran and Kruk come from the Departments of Premier and Cabinet in Victoria and NSW respectively and therefore understand the central policy department agenda well. Two members, Steven Sedgwick and Carmel McGregor, both have Australian Public Service Commission backgrounds albeit both have also had extensive departmental experience at senior levels. Balancing this central focus somewhat, Director General of ASIS, Nick Warner was formerly Secretary of Defence.
The remainder of the group broadly have varying levels of private sector or academic backgrounds, although Anne Sherry had experience of the Australian Government as Head of the Office of the Status of Women – also then located in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC).
The Moran reforms objectives are to:
- Meet the needs of citizens;
- Provide strong leadership and direction;
- Contain a highly capable workforce; and
- Operate efficiently and at a consistently high standard.
These could not reasonably be argued against. They will however, take focus and effort to see implemented. Without strong championing from the top, there is a risk that the inexorable pressures at the senior management levels of the APS will deflect focus back inside agency silos.
The first term of the Rudd Labor Government saw an increasing consolidation of power among the DPMC, Treasury and Department of Finance and Deregulation. Furthermore, the DPMC received an increased funding allocation in the 2010-11 Federal Budget.
With leadership change has come press speculation that the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will alter the current power structure within the Australian Public Service and reign in the responsibilities of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, giving a greater degree of autonomy back to agency secretaries.
According to Lenore Taylor in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Prime Minister met with senior public servants on the first day after the leadership coup and pledged that the DPMC will be restored to its former role as an advisory and ministerial support body. Taylor wrote that “Ms Gillard said advice and expertise across the bureaucracy would be respected and her department would go back to its primary function of co-ordination and providing her with advice, rather than trying to initiate and oversee all main policies”.
If true, this change in focus for DPMC may have a heavy impact on the implementation of the Moran Report’s recommendations, especially with the government now keenly in pre-election mode. The moment the election is announced, the bureaucracy will move into caretaker mode and any activity on any Moran Report initiative will halt until after the election. The Opposition’s position on the Report’s recommendations is unclear, and should it win government at the election, implementation may not have the same priority as that accorded by the Labor Government.
The Moran Report outlined a number of recommendations to reform government service delivery. Among them were some key ICT-related initiatives including:
- Greater information sharing capacity between agencies and jurisdictions;
- Improved accessibility to government service information;
- An extension of standard business reporting (SBR)program and a general minimisation of reporting and compliance requirements; and
- Conducting a survey of citizen satisfaction with government service delivery, which may in turn present some ICT opportunities if agencies were to acquire and use technologies themselves in this process.
Despite this, Terry Moran has also been a vocal advocate of shared responsibility and power across the government agencies. In a speech given to the Institute of Public Administration Australia on 15 July 2009 in Canberra, Moran said he wishes to pursue a public service that is “fiercely proud of its work, but also prepared to share it...that has no time for the trivia of turf wars”.