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The Australian Public Service Commission has released its updated guide to social media use by Federal public servants. The guide, Making public comment on social media: A guide for employees, leaves absolutely no room for employees to make critical comments of any of their ministers, superiors, or departments.

Furthermore, it suggests public servants are liable to be disciplined even if they don’t promptly delete a critical post on their social media account by an outsider.

First brought to light by a critical article in The Australian newspaper, the nine-page, 3,000+ word guide goes into some detail as to what is and what is not acceptable.

Now listen up!

“As members of the Australian community, Australian Public Service (APS) employees have the right to participate in public and political debate,” the document begins.

“But this is not an unlimited right. APS employees have particular responsibilities under the Public Service Act 1999 that come with being employed as a public servant by the Commonwealth of Australia. In some cases, these responsibilities limit their ability to participate fully in public discussions, including on social media.”

Criticism is a definite no-no. Whether it is the employee’s current agency, Minister, previous agency, or observations of a person, the guide is clear to begin with: “Criticising the work, or the administration, of your agency is almost always going to be seen as a breach of the Code. The closer your criticism is to your area of work, the more likely this will be.”

The guide then goes on to warn that critical posts are not allowed after hours or in a declared private capacity, or even anonymously: “Even if you don’t identify yourself you can still be identified by someone else.”

And just in case you’re wondering, your right to freedom of speech is, well, worthless: “The common law recognises an individual right to freedom of expression. This right is subject to limitations such as those imposed by the Public Service Act. In effect, the Code of Conduct operates to limit this right.”

The commissioner responds

The Australian Public Service Commissioner The Hon John Lloyd has responded to the detailed article published by The Australian newspaper, declaring it to be misrepresentative:

“The use of social media by employees requires discretion and judgement,” he writes. “For this reason it is important that all employers, including those in the APS, ensure their employees clearly understand the expectations of their behaviour when they use social media.

“The APSC consulted extensively with APS agencies and employees in late 2016. This consultation indicated that the policy settings did not need to change, but that current obligations were not well understood by employees. The CPSU encouraged its members to participate, and made a submission.

“It is not more restrictive than previous guidance. Rather, it clarifies the parameters around what public servants can and cannot say, and should give greater confidence to APS employees when they are participating online activity. Submissions to the review indicated that aspects of the previous guidance was unclear and ambiguous, and that revised guidance should be simpler and easy to understand.”

Straight from the Trump playbook: The Greens

Greens employment spokesperson Adam Bandt MP slammed reports in The Australian that the Turnbull government will impose restrictions on public servants criticising his government on social media.

"There must have been a few paragraphs missing from the leaked Trump/Turnbull transcript, because this latest crackdown on the public service is straight from the Trump playbook," said Mr Bandt.

"If anyone challenges Trump, they get fired. Malcolm Turnbull, in his desperation to hang onto power, is trying to do the same.

"Holding public servants responsible for what others post on their page is the stuff of the thought police. Your job shouldn't be in danger because someone shares a post on your page about marriage equality or action on climate change and you don't delete it.

"This is a ruthless assault on freedom of speech that would make any demagogue proud.”

The guide, Making public comment on social media: A guide for employees, is available here.
                    [post_title] => Though shalt not criticise
                    [post_excerpt] => The updated guide to social media use by Federal public servants has been released.
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                    [post_content] => 

Andrew Ferrington

The third series of 'Utopia', the fan favourite for all who have worked in an office, premiered last month. The series — created by the prolific Working Dog team — tells of the National Building Authority's coexisting contrary tensions of bureaucracy and ‘blue sky’ ambitions.

At the outset, let me disclose that I spent more than 15 years in a variety of roles in public service and am now back in the private world.

The show is great — the ministerial adviser tries to highlight the positives of the NBA's ambitions, while the authority itself grapples with its commission to be ambitious in its outlook. The show makes its mark by illustrating the tensions between the government, its ministers and the institutions that oversee it, all while the NBA attempts to complete public brief it has to envision the future.

The thing that concerns me is not the laughs at the bureaucracy's expense, it’s what it points out about the private sector. The big-picture thinking that always gets a laugh, is now nowhere to be seen.

Because it can't be. Only government is able to take the risk to lead such big change.

The private sector not only can't – but won't. It doesn't have the mandate, the appetite or the ability to dream large with these projects. The trope that "we don't need the government" as Rob Sitch's character says in episode one, becomes simply wrong. No entity but the government can make a decision or show the leadership that is needed to execute projects that bring about fundamental changes to society.

Further, the contemporary discussion about ‘small’ government and that it should get out of the way of business is also a nonsense. If we didn't have government imagining these large projects, taking risks that the private sector can't even conceive of, and spending the money (yes, our money), society would be nothing like it is today.

We do well to understand the context in which government works, because it is important.

This leadership trickles down: while the government mandates that women, people with a disability or indigenous peoples have a significant contribution to play in society, the private sector is far behind.

As a former bureaucrat, 'Utopia' makes me laugh. Yes, I've seen these behaviours: where the tyranny and vanity of politics overrules all. But it also makes me sad, because it mocks the leadership role that government plays, and the vision and ideas that the private sector can't possibly imagine.

Next time you leave home (which is standing solidly, because government regulations mandated it should be built to a certain standard), think about the water, electricity and other services you use, the roads you drive on, footpaths you walk on, and trains you might catch. While they may be delivered by the private sector, they were planned and imagined by governments.

And without them, we would be significantly worse off.

Andrew Ferrington is the national tenders manager at Findex Group.

 
                    [post_title] => There is no private ‘Utopia’
                    [post_excerpt] => Government is the only one working to create a 'Utopia'.
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                    [post_content] => 

 

 

It took Victoria’s Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages more than a year to give a grieving mum birth and death certificates for her son who died when he was 18 weeks old.

A Victorian Ombudsman investigation into the Registry’s behaviour, published yesterday (Monday), found that its actions had likely prolonged the mother’s distress and grief and pointed to “serious service delivery problems” in the organisation, reflected in the growing number of complaints the Ombudsman had received.

Ms X gave birth to twins in 14 weeks prematurely in March 2015. One of the boys survived but the other died 4.5 months later.  She battled for more than a year to get the Registry to issue birth certificates for both boys and death certificates for Twin A.

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass uncovered a litany of failures in the way the Registry dealt with Ms X.

“A grieving parent, having lost an infant twin child seeking basic documentation about his very existence – found herself immersed in a bureaucratic netherworld,” said Ms Glass.

“Over 20 contacts with the Registry, with concerns still not resolved over 12 months, unanswered and unreturned phone calls, discovering the Registry had lost certified documents.”

Ms X had made a mistake on the form and had registered the births two months late but the Ombudsman chided the Registry for showing no understanding of the “intense sadness and despair” that Ms X had been going through.

Unfortunately, Ms X’s case was not an isolated one, said Ms Glass. Complaints about the Registry shot up from 14 cases in January 2016 to 34 cases in April 2016.

“Given the sensitive nature of much of its caseload, we would expect the Registry to fulfil its statutory obligations with efficiency and accuracy. But as this investigation demonstrates, far too often, this did not happen,” Ms Glass said.

“Sadly, Ms X’s experience with the Registry was not unique. My office had received an increasing number of complaints about the Registry and its delays in issuing certificates or responding to complaints." 

She said complaints were most often about long waits on the telephone that failed to resolve issues, sloppy or non-existent record keeping, poor communication and confusing policies.

Some people said they had waited more than two hours on the phone before having their calls cut off without speaking to Registry staff.

The Victorian Ombudsman recommended that there be an external audit of the Registry’s performance and business practices in 18 months’ time; that it consider the particular circumstances of each individual case and ensure applicants who have paid a fee are told if their application is non-compliant. 

Ms Glass welcomed the response of the Department of Justice and Regulation in accepting the recommendations: 

“The Department has acknowledged that the Registry has been experiencing serious service delivery problems, and happily, matters are improving with more staff engaged, improved technology and the adoption of complaint handling procedures. The further recommendations contained in this report will help the Registry do what all Victorians should reasonably expect from this key public service. ” 

A restructure of the Registry between 2012 and 2015  cut the number of employees in back office roles. Registry employees fell from 111 FTE staff to 85 FTE and roles and responsibilities substantially changed.

Ms Glass mentioned in her report that agency cuts were at least partly responsible for the Registry’s poor performance.

But the report mentions that the Registry has been trying to clean up its act by hiring more staff, making IT improvements and adopting complaint handling procedures.
                    [post_title] => Mum's grief worse after bureaucratic nightmare with Births, Deaths and Marriages
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                    [post_content] => Portrait of a woman shouting among mannequins

 

Marie Coleman from the National Foundation of Australian Women has spent multiple decades campaigning for all women to have access to a decent paid parental leave (PPL) scheme but she now faces the painful prospect of those hard-won gains being snatched away from up to 80,000 Australian women.

Ms Coleman, who has spent years lobbying various Prime Ministers, including John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott on maternity leave, believes the federal government’s Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill will have serious consequences for women and their families if it is passed.

She says she is “deeply, deeply unimpressed” by the government’s approach and believes Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should look for savings elsewhere.

“Clean up the administration of family day care and the cesspit of the private sector VET-FEE HELP,” Ms Coleman said.

“If we have to save money – and I firmly believe we should save money – I don’t believe we should be putting the health of babies and months at risk by this extremely vindictive measure.”

The Bill’s beginnings were far from auspicious. Witness the unedifying spectacle of then Treasurer Joe Hockey delivering the Abbott/Hockey budget, telling the nation’s women on Mother’s Day that they were a pack of freeloaders, “double dippers” and rorters, while conveniently forgetting the wives of senior politicians - including his own - had (legally) been doing exactly that.

The new Bill aims to overhaul the current PPL scheme, ushered in under Labor’s Paid Parental Leave Act 2010, where new parents are entitled to 18 weeks of PPL at minimum wage, which is $11,826 per household, regardless of whether they also received PPL from their employer. Those earning more than $150,000 are not entitled to government-paid PPL.

The original aim of the scheme was to fit together both sources of PPL where possible and to move towards giving women 26 weeks with their babies, the World Health Organisation’s target. The Productivity Commission reported in February 2009 that the evidence was incontrovertible that 18 weeks PPL was valuable and it found 26 weeks desirable.

The new Fairer PPL Bill 2016 stipulates:
  • No paid parental leave from the government if a person receives PPL from their employer which is equal or more than the national minimum wage
  • Parents will no longer be able to receive employer-provided PPL as well as the full amount of parental leave pay under the government’s PPL scheme
  • Parents who get no employer-provided payments or receive less than the total amount of parental leave pay under the PPL scheme will get a top-up
  • Employers will have to opt in to administer government payments. Employees will be paid directly by the Department of Human Services, which will cost the government an extra $7 million over five years
  • Minor amendments  will include more generous backdating provisions so parents have more time to lodge a claim in certain circumstances
The government says the new scheme will save $1.1 billion and it could come in as early as January 2017. Although a 2015 senate committee report recommended the 2016 Bill proceed, Labor and Greens senators on the committee wrote dissenting reports. The Committee’s final report stated:  “It is also clear … that this Bill will not lead to any reduction in the length of parental leave taken, or any reduction or removal of employer funded PPL entitlements.” The new bill’s impact Disagreement has raged about how many women will be affected and who will suffer if the new measures are introduced. Social Services Minister Christian Porter has argued that more than half of the 90,000 of the families who are currently eligible for PPL will not be affected by the changes. He has also made a point of saying that it is not fair that high earning women can access both schemes. But Ms Coleman said: “Christian Porter is far too fond - as were Hockey and Morrison - of talking about women on $140,000. This is a piece of fluff from the minister. “He’s failing to recognise that his own department’s figures show very clearly that they’re going to be a huge number of women whose yearly income is around $40,000 who are going to lose $12,000 and I hope women rise up like a huge terrifying army.” Dr Sue Williamson, an academic with the School of Business at UNSW Canberra, who specialises in gender equality in the workplace, said the percentage of women on high incomes who were able to access both schemes was “really small.” “The vast majority of women earn average minimum wages. There’s just not that many women who earn $150,000,” Dr Williamson said. “I think it’s a way of trying to sell changes to the policy but it’s a distraction, a red herring. The people who are mostly going to be impacted are women on low incomes.” She said that even industry groups and the Australian Chamber of Commerce had supported leaving the PPL alone and said that it was working well, particularly by helping to drive women’s workforce participation. The Community Affairs Legislation Committee report on PPL contains a submission from Department of Social Services (DSS) – Mr Porters’ own department – which says  that 45,000 families will be partially affected and 34,000 families would no longer be eligible for government funded PPL if the Bill passes. This equates to 47 per cent of families who were previously eligible for both payments who will be affected. One-fifth would lose their eligibility entirely. The DSS table is further complicated by the reporting of media income for women and the median income of both partners together. Women on $43,000 (combined $108,000) will lose part of their PPL and the second group, where women earn an average of $73,000 (combined $149,000) will lose their right to government PPL entirely. Shadow Minister for Social Services Jenny Macklin told ABC radio yesterday (Monday): “We are talking about people who work in retail. They might work for Woolworths or Myer. They might work in McDonald’s. The vast majority of women who are going to be affected by Mr Turnbull’s attack on pregnant mothers are women who are working in retail and hospitality. “What this will mean is a very, very difficult choice for working mothers. Either they will have to cut short their paid parental leave to go back to work because they have to pay their bills, and that will of course mean they have to spend less time with their babies, or they decide to stay at home and of course that means they will be thousands of dollars worse off.” She said many firms had their own paid parental leave scheme on top of the government’s scheme, “that gives these mothers reasonable, not too generous paid parental leave and we want to make sure they can keep it.” Ms Macklin called the current PPL a “modest scheme by international standards.” Dr Williamson agreed and said Australia still lagged behind many European countries. The UK has a much more comprehensive system, as do most of the Nordic countries. “Europe is basically looking to increase PPL and Australian is winding it back. It just seems like an easy budget saving and it’s just not very imaginative," she added. Childcare Ms Coleman believes that the Bill could have major consequences for a childcare system already buckling under the pressure of intense demand, high childcare fees and labour shortages. It is pressure aggravated by the fact that more staff are mandated to care for children under two than other age groups. She said: “This country has a spectacular paucity of childcare for children aged under 18 months. Who is going to look after all these 19-week babies? If you’re going to make these cuts, get the childcare sorted out first.” She is “unimpressed” by the government’s insistence that it must reduce government-paid PPL in order to fund childcare, “this government hasn’t succeeded in doing anything so far in improving childcare.” Women in the public sector Ms Coleman says most women in the public sector are working in low paid jobs, such as nurses, teachers or ambulance workers, “These women are going to suffer very severe cuts, many of them work on a part-time basis anyway.” She said it was “an outrageous attack” on women working in both the public and private sectors who did not earn anything like $70,000. Sue Williamson agrees that most women who work in the public sector are not paid particularly well. She said that 56 per cent of women employed in the Australian Public Service were APS 5 or lower. “It’s not a bad income but it is these women who are going to miss out. They will lose their government paid PPL. They will lose time with their babies and have to go to work.” Ms Macklin said she had received an email from a nurse working nightshift who was already pregnant and concerned about the possible cuts. “Forty to fifty thousand of the women who are going to be affected by this cut are already pregnant. They included nurses and a whole range of people who are going to be affected because of this government’s attack on working women.” It has also been argued that women in the public sector have traded better PPL in the past for pay rises. Dr Williamson said that PPL in the public sector appeared to have plateaued and was not mentioned much any more during APS bargaining, whereas private sector companies were offering increasingly generous benefits, something she could not see changing any time soon. Who has the numbers? While the government is obviously keen to push the Bill through, the Greens and Labor have vowed to oppose the Bill’s progress in the Senate but the numbers are likely to rest with the nine crossbenchers. Pauline Hanson’s bloc of four senators and Senator David Leyonhjelm appear to support the government's changes while Derryn Hinch is undecided but is more likely to throw his support behind the government. It will be the Nick Xenophon Team who are likely to provide the deciding vote and prove critical to the Bill’s passage. The party is understood to still be considering its position. [post_title] => Women, rise up like a huge terrifying army: parental leave campaigner [post_excerpt] =>  Target dodgy childcare and private colleges first. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 25363 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-10-25 12:05:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-10-25 01:05:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25363 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 5 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25080 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2016-09-23 10:01:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-23 00:01:11 [post_content] => Table of business lady who is drinking tea in the background   By Sue Williamson This story first appeared in the Canberra Times and appears here by kind permission of the author.   Gender equality is currently a hot topic in Canberra, partly due to the Australian government's stated commitment to removing barriers that may be impeding women's progress in the Australian public service. Views on how best to achieve this, however, differ. My research on gender equality in the APS has revealed that agencies are undertaking a range of initiatives to progress gender equality. Some of these initiatives are small yet significant, such as arranging workplace morning teas for mothers on maternity leave; others focus on where and how work is conducted, and encourage employees to telework; yet other initiatives aim to change behaviour by uncovering and removing an individual's hidden biases which can, for example, affect recruitment and selection outcomes. While all these initiatives are important and share the underlying goal of increasing gender equality in the APS, leading international research has shown that one of the most effective ways to improve gender equality is to address issues systemically, rather than solely relying on approaches that focus on individual employees and/or managers. So how can workplace culture change so that progressing gender equality is not merely another management exercise aimed at employees, but becomes embedded into the fabric of an organisation? There are various ways in which this can be achieved. Firstly, a whole-of-government approach is needed. Agencies that have embarked on a gender equality journey are to be applauded and may even eventually be formally recognised as being an employer of choice for women. Now they need to share stories, learn from each other, and implement the government's APS-wide strategy. In April this year, Senator Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Minister for Women and Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service released Blueprint for the Future: The APS Gender Equality Strategy 2016-2019. This strategy aims to adopt such an approach, with agencies tailoring initiatives to their needs. Implementation needs to be regularly reviewed over an extended period of time to assess progress towards a gender equitable culture, as my research will do. Secondly, institutional change and support is needed. Rather than a focus only on individuals, governance measures need to centre on holding agencies accountable to implementing the Gender Equality Strategy, to measuring outcomes and to ensuring agencies are adequately resourced to implement initiatives. Thirdly, human resource professionals in agencies need to identify and analyse the differential impact of human resource policies and practices on both men and women. Where negative impacts are identified on either group of workers, policies and practices may need to be changed accordingly. Fourthly, the complex intersections between the workplace and home need to be more effectively reflected in the social policy, economic and industrial relations spheres. Without measures such as adequate and affordable childcare and effective marginal tax rates that do not penalise mothers returning to work, gender equality in the home and the workplace will not be achieved. A national conversation about innovative labour law provisions is also needed to help drive change in the APS and workplaces more broadly. Such initiatives include: organisations establishing a bank of carer's leave, to be used by employees as they need it throughout the various life stages, or a system of shared parental leave that encourages men to become primary carers for a time, as is being implemented by freight company Aurizon. Gender equality provisions have also been advanced and implemented through collective bargaining. An end to the bargaining impasse is needed to restore certainty about entitlements. The individual efforts of agencies, consultants, unions and employees to progress gender equality is welcome. There is, however, a danger that without systemic change, we'll still be having a conversation that started with the introduction of paid maternity leave for APS employees in the early 1970s, for another 40 years. Dr Sue Williamson is a senior lecturer in human resource management at the University of NSW, Canberra. She is an expert in gender equality in the APS. [post_title] => A piecemeal approach to gender equality in the APS [post_excerpt] => Whole-of-agency approach needed. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 25080 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-09-23 11:17:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-09-23 01:17:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25080 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24936 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-09-07 15:30:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-07 05:30:16 [post_content] =>  Border protection strike_opt Antagonism between the major public sector union and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has reached critical levels on the eve of widespread public service strikes. The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said that the Department’s latest proposed enterprise agreement “sunk to a new low” by retaining cuts to working rights, conditions and allowances and reducing the pay increase offered from 6 per cent to 4.7 per cent over three years. But the Department has hit back, insisting that its latest pay offer is between 6.4 per cent and 10.7 per cent for “the majority of staff.” The DIBP’s 13,500 staff have been waiting for a pay rise since 2013 but the public sector enterprise bargaining agreement process has dragged on for them - and many others - with a promise there will be no back pay. In March this year, union members resoundingly rejected the Department’s offer of 6 per cent over three years, with 81 per cent of votes cast saying ‘no’. An earlier offer in September 2015 of 3.4 per cent over three years (one of the lowest in the Australian Public Service) was rebuffed by 91 per cent of staff who voted. Discontentment has been bubbling up within the ranks of the DIBP for a while. CPSU members staged a 24-hour strike on Friday August 12, which included the country’s international airports, and the union has promised “more action” in the months to come. Union National Secretary Nadine Flood said the recently tabled offer had “achieved the near impossible by further stoking the anger of staff” and aggravated an already tense situation. “This offer is worse for thousands of staff than the one they overwhelmingly rejected six months ago, still stripping away the rights and conditions of all staff while cutting take-home pay for some,” Flood said. “CPSU supports pay parity but not at the expense of some staff still facing actual cuts to their current take-home pay while others will get just 4.7 per cent total from 2014 to 2019, or less than 1 per cent per year.” Employment Minister Michaelia Cash recently underlined that the government will not alter its stance; the latest enterprise agreement proposed by the DIBP is likely to be another red rag to union members. It appears there will be some come back for the government. Flood said: “Our members are now planning to get the government's attention, following up on August’s 24-hour strike at international airports and other sites.” A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said that the pay offer was a combination of general pay rises applying to all employees and increases to top of range salary rates for all classification levels to address parity concerns raised by staff [Immigration and Customs were merged in 2015]. The spokesperson said “Overall, the offer delivers an average of 6 per cent across the Department” and the Department would continue to protect take home pay through ‘grand-parenting’ of allowances, as proposed in the last offer. The Department has said that voting on the enterprise agreement would be as soon as possible with further meetings scheduled next week. This week’s strike includes a handful of DIBP staff who are union members, including some from the Australian Border Force, who will take part in a three-hour stoppage.   The twenty-four hour strike on Friday mostly involves other departments including Medicare, Centrelink, Child Support, the Tax Office, Defence, Agriculture and Water Resources and Prime Minister and Cabinet and will begin from midnight tomorrow (Thursday) and last until midnight on Friday September 9. [post_title] => Union and Immigration at loggerheads on eve of public service strike [post_excerpt] => Pay cut or pay rise? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => union-immigration-loggerheads-eve-public-service-strike [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-09-08 13:56:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-09-08 03:56:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24936 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24870 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2016-09-01 11:53:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-01 01:53:51 [post_content] => Policy Shop 2_opt   Australian governments spend around $192 billion a year on services including childcare, education, health, emergency management, housing, and justice. But is the Public Service up to the job? Despite years of preparation, the Australian Bureau of Statistics managed to mishandle the Census, resulting in millions of Australians not being able to input their details on the day. Was the Census embarrassment a one-off or is there a pattern of failure with our Public Service? Are there questions to answer over the accountability of the Public Service, its capacity to oversee outsourced services, the quality of its leadership, and its resourcing in the wake of cut backs? In this edition of The Policy Shop, University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor and a former senior bureaucrat Professor Glyn Davis runs the ruler over the public service. He is joined by former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Terry Moran AC,and the founding director of the Melbourne School of Government Professor Helen Sullivan. On the question of the Census, Mr Moran puts the blame squarely on the politicians. “I don’t blame the poor people at the ABS, I blame successive governments which have denied investment in the ABS, and also in this case the foolishness of outsourcing so much of the collection task to the private sector without equipping the ABS to be as strong and informed a client of those companies as it needed to be in a very complex area like IT,” Mr Moran says. But Professor Sullivan says the skills to oversee contracts are now core to government and should be a requirement within the public service, including the ABS. “Governments have been contracting for years,” Professor Sullivan says. “This is not something that is new. We have lots and lots of experience of contracting. Its not good enough to say it’s because they did not have enough staff or were not trained to do that. This is something that is core to how Governments operate. That doesn’t cut it for me.” Listen to the podcast here. Hosted by Professor Davis, The Policy Shop is a monthly podcast about public policy and the way it affects Australia and the world. Subscribe on iTunes.   [post_title] => Is Australia's public service competent? [post_excerpt] => Was Censusfail a one-off? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => australias-public-service-competent [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-09-06 15:41:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-09-06 05:41:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24870 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23761 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-05-02 17:14:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-02 07:14:36 [post_content] => Scott Morrison1_opt   Charities, welfare groups and unions have pleaded with Treasurer Scott Morrison to release the pressure on the Department of Human Services (DHS) by funding more staff and better IT systems in the federal Budget. In a joint statement, 14 organisations: Carers Australia, St Vincent de Paul, the Welfare Rights Centre the Community and Public Sector Union, Australian Council of Social Services, Children and Young People with Disability Australia, ACT Council of Social Services, National Union of Students, Fair Go For Pensioners, Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association, People With Disability, the Consumer Action Law Centre and Financial Counselling Australia demanded the government “properly fund” the DHS to “provide the Australian public with the Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support services they need and deserve.” DHS has fielded a range of allegations over the past year, including:
  • Centrelink bunging Youth Allowance and Austudy payments
  • Call waiting times of more than an hour to get through to Centrelink
  • One-quarter of all 57 million phone calls to Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support agencies last year going unanswered (Auditor General’s report 2015)Complaints up almost 19 per cent on last year, and customer satisfaction is down by per cent (DHS Annual Report)
  • An avalanche of customer complaints about online services, particularly myGov
  • A litany of complaints about mobile apps for child support, Medicare and Centrelink
In its statement, the coalition of not-for-profit groups said the federal Budget should:
  • Restore adequate funding to DHS
  • Invest in high quality, in-house IT systems so clients can access a reliable online service
  • Increase DHS permanent staff numbers so that claims and queries are processed quickly and clients who need over-the-phone or in-person services can get them
  • Ensure rural and regional Australia has fair access to government services.
The statement said: “Millions of people in Australia rely on the Department of Human Services every day, for essential services including social security payments, Medicare, child support and aged care. “Australia needs these essential services to be both accessible and of high quality, and employees of DHS resourced to do the best they can for everyone needing assistance. “However, after years of budget cuts, DHS systems and staff are under extreme pressure. “People who rely on Centrelink expect and deserve high quality public services. Employees in DHS must have the resources to deliver high quality public services. People are trying to do the right thing and reports changes as required, but the system is letting them down. “The upcoming budget provides an opportunity for the Federal Government to address these issues.” But there are strong indications their demands are likely to fall on deaf ears. It is widely predicted that Mr Morrison’s budget will include a Commonwealth public service “efficiency dividend”, expected to be around 1.4 per cent. CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said public sector cuts – including almost 18,000 job losses since 2013 - had already done enormous damage and any more cuts would further erode the quality of services. “Making yet another round of irrational and arbitrary cuts to Government services through increased across-the-board cuts with a so-called ‘efficiency dividend’ shows the Turnbull Government has its priorities absolutely wrong," Ms Flood said. “This is a continuation of a policy that meant one in three phone calls to the Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support agencies went unanswered last financial year, 22 million calls missed in total.” [post_title] => Demand for Human Services windfall in Budget [post_excerpt] => But efficiency dividend looms. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 23761 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-10 10:34:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-10 00:34:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23761 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23332 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-03-10 17:37:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-10 06:37:14 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23333" align="alignnone" width="300"]12771584_10154051509326579_2475803752566372190_o Pic: Facebook[/caption]   Malcolm Turnbull has now become the direct target of thousands of angry public servants locked in a bitter two year workplace bargaining dispute, with the head of the Community and Public Sector Union demanding the Prime Minister himself find “sensible solution” or face APS-wide strikes including stoppages at airports over the Easter school holidays. The direct appeal to top for the PM to push his public service chiefs into finding a compromise with employees came from Community and Public sector Union National Secretary Nadine Flood on Thursday as the union laid out its latest timetable for the biggest round of strikes yet that will hit towards the end of March. “We are saying to the Prime Minister: we will commence significant strike action in three weeks-time if the government doesn’t actually sit down and try and find a sensible resolution,” Ms Flood said. But the union has tempered its threat of stoppages with the strongest signal yet that it could be willing to accept low pay near inflation increases to preserve workplace conditions that the Abbott government had sought to have removed from enterprise agreements and put into less enforceable policy. “This is not a dispute about pay: we are not far apart on money,” Ms Flood said. “It’s a dispute about the rights and conditions that people have and the pressures on them after two years of a wage freeze.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuPdp3ldn5c The Australian Taxation Office on Wednesday conspicuously backed away from its previous attempt to add 45 minutes to the working week for its public servants, with Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan emailing staff to inform them of a new proposal that “reinstates the conditions that mattered most to you and keeps us at the forefront of APS pay and conditions." Mr Jordan described the revised proposal as “a significant shift from the last offer” adding that he hoped this showed ATO management had listened to its 20,000 staff. The Tax Office’s compromise is significant because it sets a precedent for other agencies, especially the massive Department of Human Services, to eliminate some of the most contentious rollbacks of conditions that for most public servants are far worth more than a small incremental pay rise. It is understood that since the change of leadership – and the return of Martin Parkinson to become public service chief – substantial pressure has been mounting on the Australian Public Service Commission, and its chief John Lloyd, to help find a circuit breaker in the negotiations. Some commercial suppliers to the government believe that agencies are now being given a far broader scope to find financial and operational efficiencies outside labour costs, savings that can be sold as “smart savings” that would target areas like better mobility between agencies and a substantial decrease in the use of contractors. But it is unlikely a major breakthrough will occur before the next round of strikes this month that the CPSU is talking up to be the biggest and most disruptive yet. The centrepiece of the latest round of protected industrial action is an “APS-wide strike” of 24 hours scheduled for Monday 21st of March that will hit agencies including Tax, Centrelink , Medicare, Defence, Bureau of Meteorology,  Bureau of Statistics, Department of Parliamentary Services, Education, Prime Minister & Cabinet, Environment, GeoScience Australia, Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Australian Synchrotron. Those strikes will be followed just days later on the 24th March with an Easter round of action by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources that will hit airports across Australia. Despite the lack of a major breakthrough, the CPSU is insisting its actions and persistence is slowly having an effect on the government. “Strong action from members throughout the campaign has helped secure important wins on issues like superannuation and productivity measurement,” the union told members in a bulletin on Thursday, adding that this had helped change the APS’ bargaining policy in October 2015. “So far in 2016 we are seeing more agencies being allowed to restore conditions. This movement has been enough to see staff in a handful of agencies narrowly - and often reluctantly - vote up agreements.” The looming election is also potentially handing the CPSU an advantage, with the lack of a resolution providing ammunition for Labor to attack the Turnbull government’s industrial relations intentions. Predictably, the CPSU is calling out all the big names of the Coalition’s right faction as exemplars of what to expect. “This has been a tough and nasty dispute where managers and casuals have been used as strike breakers and members have been stood down without pay for imposing partial work-bans,” the union said. “At the same time hard-line Coalition figures including Cory Bernardi, Eric Abetz and Michaelia Cash have launched regular public attacks on public workers and their union.” So far in 2016 we are seeing more agencies being allowed to restore conditions. This movement has been enough to see staff in a handful of agencies narrowly - and often reluctantly - vote up agreements. It is estimated that around 130,000 Commonwealth public servants are sitting on lapsed enterprise agreements. [post_title] => Public servants appeal direct to Turnbull to end dispute before APS-wide strikes [post_excerpt] => We are not far apart on money: CPSU [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => public-servants-appeal-direct-to-turnbull-to-end-dispute-before-aps-wide-strikes [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-10 17:53:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-10 06:53:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23332 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22664 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-01-12 10:18:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-01-11 23:18:23 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_22679" align="alignnone" width="1024"]2005 Royal Visit: Queen Elizabeth II "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," Shakespeare's Henry IV.[/caption] When it comes to leading and managing your career over time, it’s worth contemplating some aspects of conspicuous success too often learnt the hard way, observes Dr Marianne Broadbent. Different cultures hold up and admire leaders in different ways. Increasing though, it is becoming ever more challenging to get good people to take on difficult roles that put their private lives into the public domain.  Even our pre-social media private lives are heavily questioned. Who would want to be a politician in a democracy with an open and free press today? Who would want to the head of public sector agency out of favour with the policy of an opposition or alternate party? Who would want to be a CEO in a public listed company, or a non-executive Board Director of a controversial business? Sometimes we wish for things, and it is a case of ‘be careful what you wish for . . .’. If your role means you have a ‘public face’ you might have the visibility and status you have craved. But you are also at your most vulnerable. I am a devotee of biographies and autobiographies of many different types, but particularly those of political, historical or public figures (as well as musicians, artists and performers just so you don’t get too restricted an idea of my tastes).  Reading Hilary Clinton’s Hard Choices the month it came out, it became clear that she would be a Presidential candidate, but perhaps she has been ‘inured’: that is, there is nothing more to which she can be subjected that hasn’t already happened. (Devotees of The Good Wife will know what ‘inured’ means). Having lived through Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership the same thing is true. A few weeks ago one of our comedy/ satirical shows played a quiz game putting up a series of foul quotes. The quiz question was ‘were these lines from a radio shock jock or from the lines of television show about a women’s prison?’ Most of them were the former. No matter what view you had of the politics and performance of a particular individual, no leader should have been subjected to that, especially not a Prime Minister. Visitors and observers from other countries just could not believe what they were seeing and hearing. So when you see those high profile males and females and you might think it would be great to have their lifestyles.  Think again, as things are not necessarily what they seem. The sad fact today is the extent to which others are dissuaded from any form of public life because of the way we treat our public figures.  But we do so much need good people to put themselves forward. Look after your physical and spiritual self, it does matter. If you want lead an energetic life, it is important to have some energy – and good leaders need good energy levels. Different things sustain each of us, but most of work better when we are more physically fit. It does not mean we are slim or need to emulate the ‘beautiful people’ set – just that we have a good level of stamina when there is no reason not to have that. Some time ago I had a conversation on a bar stool with a Gartner colleague as a pre-conference gathering. He was clearly exhausted from a lot of travel, had put on weight and was not enjoying it. He told me he did not have time to exercise to which I replied along the lines: my travel schedule was equally onerous and it was just a matter of developing some good habits. His kids were older, he had no real health issues and there was no good reason he could not develop some different habits. He just had to commit to it. I thought afterwards that I had gone too far and he most likely would never confide in me again. About a year later, at the next year’s event, this person came up to me and I did not recognise him – until he started speaking. He told me he had taken up walking early most mornings and he felt so, so much better. He realised I had not even recognised him and just laughed, and said yes, my unsympathetic reaction a year earlier had started him thinking. On the spiritual side again we each need to find what works for us. Most of us have a fundamental need to do some ‘sense making’ of the world around us.  I have atheist and agnostic friends who have a view of the world with which they are comfortable and they have given it some good thought. I have Jewish and Buddhist friends and acquaintances who have strong commitment to their beliefs and value systems. I was raised a Catholic, but not the traditional Irish-Australian kind.  Only one grandparent was originally a Catholic and that was on my French maternal grandmother. It was a looser form of French influenced Catholicism which exhibited a more casual adherence and an often questioning approach to rituals. I did get into some interesting discussions as a teenager at a Catholic girl’s school… When asked about my own formative experiences of leadership, I often refer to the time spent as part of the ‘adult support team’ for a youth group. It was a community that enabled young people to share their own stories in a supportive atmosphere. Our role was just to be there, and to help those in their teens and early twenties to ‘workshop’ their talks for their peers.  Many of those young people were inspiring as they struggled to make sense of the world around them. They shared their journey and allowed others to understand more about them.  They energised us more than we energised them. In the leadership and development work I am part of today, we always stress the real understanding, the foundation of trust, comes from an appreciation of someone else’s world.  It’s about getting to know your colleagues, bosses, your team members as people, who have ‘whole’ lives, not just a work existence as part of your team. Assume good intent on the part of others, don’t sweat the small stuff. We each have our own personal and particular ways of processing how others have acted, or how we perceive they have acted. I adhere to the saying that if something has occurred and there is choice between viewing it as a ‘stuff up’ or conspiracy, assume ‘stuff up’ every time. This translates to how you think about those who have said or done something that is potential hurtful or harmful. Assume good intent and then probe, with them, where the misunderstanding came in. For example, my brain is wired for rational and logical thinking and, over time, it has had to contend a lot of inputs that are neither. Years ago if someone did something that seemed not so logical I might have thought there was an underlying reason for that – perhaps something quite negative. Now I will (mostly) assume some form of misunderstanding, crossed wires, or a time zone or sleep deprivation matter. Addressing the situation in the context of assuming good intent saves a lot on the heartburn and angst. Of course one does need a level of cultural sensitivity here. I have spent a lot of time in different countries, including those in parts of Asia where, at first encounter, people’s views might seem more opaque. You have to take your cues from others, and adapt, exercise listening skills a lot more, and be prepared to put real time in building relationships. In working so much in the US I learnt too about speaking in euphemisms. Most Americans are unfailingly polite – to a fault. My natural style was once described by an Australian client as ‘careful bluntness’. Working in this US I learnt early to temper a natural directness. However, I am proud of the fact that over time, there were many colleagues who found it much easier to be more direct and sort out any misunderstandings quickly, rather than letting them linger or fester. Spend your energy on what really matters. Regarding ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’, I have become much better at that over the years. There are so many bigger things for us to be concerned about. If something is not really materiel, then just let it go. It is about choosing which battles to fight and realising there is only so much ‘air time’ available. We each need to use it well and on things that really matter. Dr Marianne Broadbent is Managing Partner, with the Leadership Consultancy, NGS Global c/- info.australia@ngs-global.com, www.ngs-global.com This story first appeared in Government News magazine June/July 2015.    [post_title] => Hard choices … Higher visibility can mean greater vulnerability [post_excerpt] => Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 22664 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-01-12 11:00:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-12 00:00:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=22664 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21781 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2015-10-14 13:26:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-14 02:26:53 [post_content] => 15109583403_a4c6971104_b More than 2000 of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s public service departmental staff will vote on whether to accept a new enterprise agreement (EA) this week, with even the pay rise offered in dispute. Staff at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) vote this week on the government's pay offer, a wage increase that the department argues is 'an average' of 4.5 per cent  over three years but the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says represents only 3.5 per cent across the board. Government News understands that the only pay increase that applies to all staff is 3.5 per cent. Some other staff have been told they may be able to access movement up the pay scale but with no guarantees. The vote closes late on Sunday with the results of the ballot likely to be known by Monday or Tuesday next week. When the CPSU held a poll earlier this year 95 per cent of whose members voted to rejected the offer. The union has called it a “sub-par” offer and is urging their members to vote 'no'. The CPSU’s analysis of the government’s offer highlights several concerns including: slower progression up the pay scale, lower minimum pay points at some classification levels, restrictions on salary advancements and cuts to term and conditions. Cuts to terms and conditions include removing the right to access flexible working arrangements for people with caring responsibilities, including parents, from the EA and into policy, which may be changed in the future. It also includes removing travel assistance from the EA and moving it into travel policy, which the union contends could be changed my management without reference to the PM&C Consultative Committee. CPSU National President Alistair Waters said: “The government’s harsh and unfair bargaining policy is broken. With influential agencies rejecting sub par offers, and the government willing to talk, now is the time for a strong NO vote in PM&C.” “By voting to reject the proposed PM&C EA you will send a message to management that you believe you deserve a better and more reasonable offer. You may also be better off staying on the current PM&C EA until you can get a better deal, even if that takes some time.” What will also stick in the craw of PM&C staff is how long the process has taken and the remote possibility of any back pay. The last enterprise agreement elapsed in June 2014 and bargaining began in August last year. As well, the pay offer is below that of many other departments, such as Human Services, Social Services (DSS), Health and the Australian Tax Office (all offered 4.5 per cent but only DSS has agreed to it) or and below the official 4.5 per cent cap set under former Employment Minister Eric Abetz and Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Staff at the PM&C have generally been regarded as being well paid compared to staff at other departments and agencies but the 2013 absorption of Indigenous Affairs, when the PM&C more than tripled in size, put paid to this theory. There are known to be substantial pay differentials of staff working in the department and on the same pay grade, reportedly up to $19,000 per year on same grades. A CPSU spokesperson said: “Staff transferred into PM&C to cover Indigenous Affairs remain on their old pay scales and are generally lower paid than those who were already working for the agency," he said. "The CPSU’s membership has been growing significantly since PM&C was expanded.” The PM&C now includes a mishmash of one department of state, six statutory agencies and 12 Commonwealth companies and authorities. Including in this grab bag are staff at the Office of National Assessments, the Tiwi Land Council, Outback Stores, the Australian National Audit Office, Torres Strait Regional Authority and the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Enterprise bargaining negotiations have been further hamstrung by the existence of ten different EA pay and condition arrangements, covering staff who could work in locations ranging from Canberra to the Groote Archipelago in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The new Turnbull government will be keen to avoid an embarrassing political situation during the vote, such as when former Employment Minister Eric Abetz’s staff voted down their EA. Public sector strikes that have affected airports, customer service centres and ports may add to Mr Turnbull's willingness to do a deal. A softening stance has been flagged to workplace negotiations by new Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, who has declared that she will sit down with unions and thrash things out. Enterprise agreements for all 114 APS government agencies and departments elapsed on 30 June 2014. Negotiations on some agreements began in April last year. There remains a stack of more than 100 unsigned draft enterprise agreements on the table. The PM&C vote could mark a turning point - for good or ill - in public sector pay negotiations. [post_title] => Prime Minister and Cabinet staff to vote on “sub-par” pay offer [post_excerpt] => Ballot closes on Sunday. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => prime-minister-and-cabinet-staff-to-vote-on-sub-par-pay-offer [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-15 17:15:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-15 06:15:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=21781 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21520 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2015-09-22 15:59:37 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-09-22 05:59:37 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21521" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Sydney Airport On a wing and a prayer ... Immigration and Border Protection staff reject the government's offer.[/caption] As airport strikes hit day two of ten days of stoppages, staff from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), including the new Border Force, have voted decisively against the government’s pay offer of 3.4 per cent over three years. There was a record turnout at the ballot with almost 82 per cent of the department’s staff casting their vote. The result was an emphatic ‘no’, with more than 91 per cent of unionised staff – more than 10,000 workers – voting to reject the agreement, which the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said represented cuts to multiple allowances, leave and rights to arrangements such as flexible hours and part-time working. The union warned last week that strikes by DIBP and Agriculture staff would affect international airports, cruise ships, freight, parcel and mail delivery centres around the country. Union staff are staging two-hour stoppages in the morning and evening at eight airports: Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Coolangatta, Darwin, Melbourne Tullamarine, Perth and Sydney. Queues and delays were reported at Sydney, Perth and Cairns Airports but travellers at Melbourne Tullamarine appeared unscathed by the industrial action so far. Sydney Airport has warned international travellers to arrive early and allow extra time to get through customs during the strike. The CPSU said staff reported up to 500 people waiting in Sydney Airport’s departure hall with reported delays of up to 90 minutes. DIBP staff staged strikes earlier this year in July, coinciding with the merger of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the creation of the Australian Border Force on July 1. Workers in other departments, including Human Services, the Tax Office, Defence, Veteran Affairs, Environment, Employment and the Australian Bureau of Statistics will strike from Thursday this week as the public sector enterprise bargaining process grinds on and into its eighteenth month. CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood appealed to the new Minister for Public Services Michaelia Cash, who took over from Eric Abetz on Monday, to heed the message workers were sending to the government. “Minister Cash has inherited a mess across Commonwealth Government agencies, with workers rejecting this draconian bargaining policy,” Ms Flood said. “More than 10,000 Border Protection workers have said ‘no’ to an unfair agreement that cut the take-home pay of many staff by $8000 a year or more. “The creation of Border Force through this merger of Customs and Immigration has been difficult and divisive. What we’ve seen today is this workforce coming together to reject a fundamentally flawed agreement.” Ms Flood said the numbers indicated that even middle managers who were being flown in to cover strike action must have voted strongly to reject the draft agreement. Last night, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on ABC’s 7.30 program that his aim was to avoid conflict with unions. “The industrial relations reform, which is - labour market reform, has been a very vexed one. It's obviously been a pitched battle in some respects between the Government and the unions and business and the unions,” Mr Turnbull told the program. “I think the important thing is to seek to explore ways in which we can achieve more flexibility, higher levels of employment, higher levels of business activity and do so in a way that reassures Australians, Australian workers in particular, that this is not threatening their conditions. “The challenge for us is not to wage war with unions or the workers that they seek to represent, but really to explain what the challenges are and then lay out some reform options.” Ms Flood challenged Mr Turnbull to return to the negotiating table and give some ground. “Right now there is a massive group of working mums and dads, your own employees, who are worried and angry about cuts to their rights and conditions,” she said. “I have asked Minister Cash to meet and discuss a sensible resolution to this 18-month impasse.” [post_title] => Immigration and Border Protection staff vote 91% against pay offer [post_excerpt] => Airport strikes continue. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => immigration-and-border-protection-staff-vote-91-against-pay-offer [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-09-25 11:21:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-09-25 01:21:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=21520 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20325 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2015-06-25 23:45:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-25 13:45:16 [post_content] => IMGP0432   It’s a paltry figure that has set tongues wagging about what unionised public servants might ultimately settle for in their year-long dispute with the Abbott government and its industrial hard man Eric Abetz. The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has – in the middle of the biggest public sector industrial row for more than a decade – gently hiked its dues by 1.7 per cent for the 2015-2016 financial year. It’s a modest annual rise that few members are likely to object to, given the bare-knuckle negotiations that are looming over conditions and pay after a week of strikes that resulted in walkouts by tens of thousands of public servants across the nation. Unions, generally, aren't big fans of performance pay. Even so, the increase extracts between “15 to 55 cents per fortnight” per member according to the CPSU. The fee hike is being interpreted in parts of the Abbott government as a reflection of where the real waterline is when it comes to inking a new Enterprise Agreement for APS agencies. The logic (even if optimistic) is rudimentary: unions can effectively only push onto their member’s a fee increase that can be collected via a commensurate boosts in remuneration. Increases over and above pay rises result in even more money being extracted the pay of union members. “To ensure we can continue to provide the high quality support, advice and representation, the CPSU will be increasing membership fees by 1.7 [per cent] for the 2015/16 financial year, in line with long-standing Governing Council policy,” the CPSU said in a bulletin to members. “This change is based on movement in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which showed a 1.7 [per cent] increase in prices between 1 Jan 2014 and 31 Dec 2014.  CPI is calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).” That may be so, but the government’s negotiators are arguing a similar line when it comes to offering APS staff lowball pay increases that have been left in the dust by New South Wales settling on a 2.5 per cent public service-wide increase as major productivity uplifts from new technology kick-in. Conversely, the Abbott government has narrowly defined how productivity increases can be measured, primarily setting them out as labour cost reductions rather than increases in the output of individuals. The present negotiation approach has deeply frustrated younger, more progressive and ambitious sections of the Coalition who believe the public service can attract a broader range of talent from private industry that is more outcomes focussed and can impart much needed innovative or “agile” practices into agencies that would otherwise be too conservative to question existing models. A frequent complaint is that top talent is now drifting to state agencies because of the federal industrial malaise, and that the kudos of working for a Commonwealth agency has been badly diminished. Another major issue is that as Commonwealth pay rates stagnate, they become conspicuously less competitive with private industry over time, especially where technology and web-based skills are concerned. The fear is that that a readily available talent pool sufficiently hungry for success is being squandered as negotiations remained deadlocked. Meanwhile the CPSU, which has dined-out on understaffing problems at agencies like Centrelink that resulted in more than a quarter of calls to the agency getting the engaged signal, has broken down how it spends its own money. According to a spending chart more than 67 per cent of spend goes on “organising and member services.” It could be money well spent given that the CPSU has been reported as saying around 12,500 have joined it despite more than 17,000 public servants recently exiting Commonwealth employment. [post_title] => Federal public servants hit with union fee hike [post_excerpt] => Modest increase in price of solidarity. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => federal-public-servants-hit-with-union-fee-hike [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-25 23:55:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-25 13:55:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=20325 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20207 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2015-06-22 18:19:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-22 08:19:56 [post_content] => Clock The final sitting week of federal Parliament before the long winter break is set to be hit by public servants working in Canberra going out on strike in their masses. Thousands of members of the Community and Public Sector Union are set to muster on Tuesday at the National Convention Centre as part of an authorised mass walkout in the national capital over deadlocked enterprise bargaining talks. Large parts of federal agencies across the Australian Public Service are expected to be buffeted by the authorised stoppage in the National Capital, which the CPSU is pushing as a vital fight for the retention of key rights, entitlements and conditions -- and not allowing the government to mete out what in some cases add up to effective cuts in take-home pay. The Abbott government and the Australian Public Service Commission have so far shown almost no tangible inclination to compromise with the union over the enterprise bargaining dispute, a scenario that makes it increasingly likely that a bid for a third round of far more disruptive action by angry public servants is now on the cards. With Parliament in session, the Tuesday mass walkout is certain to garner high profile publicity for a second week as it hits the very seat of Australian government and the federal press gallery. “Already, across the nation, thousands of public sector workers have walked out on strike and gathered together to protest the Abbott Government’s attack on their rights, conditions and pay,” CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said. “Now it’s time to bring their message to the nation’s capital – public sector workers will fight to protect their rights, conditions and pay from this unprecedented assault by the Abbott Government.” Although most of the actions by the CPSU have to date been largely symbolic or tactical, the ultimate threat of far more targeted action aimed at disrupting or causing pain for the government -- rather than hitting public-facing services -- remains a live and potent option over coming months in an effort to break the year-long stalemate. Meanwhile, government agencies with large numbers of customer have preparations well in hand to try and minimise disruption. The Department of Human Services was on Monday reassuring customers that their money won’t be held up, but was also suggesting non-urgent calls to its agencies be put off until the action had passed, or use online channels. “I want to assure our customers their payments will not be affected by this industrial action, as many are automatically generated and reporting requirements for payments such as Newstart Allowance can already be done online,” said General Manager Hank Jongen said. “While we have robust contingency arrangements to minimise disruptions in circumstances like these, customers should keep in mind that we may have reduced numbers of staff to assist them during this period. Human Services remains a key battleground in the APS bargaining dispute where many unionised staff remain angry over low-ball pay offers that have been hamstrung by the government’s strict bargaining policy in terms of reaching a compromise. Even so, Human Services on Monday used the industrial action to indicate that it had not yet given up hope in its search for a compromise, despite previous offers having been overwhelmingly. Another official bid for a compromise is expected in weeks, according to Human Services' senior management. “Since tabling our second pay offer in February we have not been sitting idle,” Mr Jongen said. “We have been reviewing staff feedback to look at where we may be able to make further changes to the offer that is currently on the table, and have actively been exploring every option we can, within the Government’s bargaining policy, to give our staff an affordable pay offer. “In fact, this work has resulted in a revised pay offer, which is currently going through the necessary government approvals and we expect to be able to table a further pay offer in July for staff to consider,” Mr Jongen said. However Labor's Shadow Minister for Human Services, Senator Doug Cameron, said Human Services staff had been provoked into striking after trying to negotiate a new enterprise agreement for nearly 18 months "in the face of the Abbott Government’s attacks on long established working conditions under the guise of 'productivity improvements'." "It is now a month since DHS sent a secret proposal for a revised offer to staff to the Australian Public Service Commission for its approval before it can be put to staff," Senator Cameron said, adding it was "well beyond time" Human Service Minister Marise Payne intervened "to have common sense restored to the bargaining process." The realpolitik of the negotiation is that the government is likely to have to cede some ground in terms of widening its present strict definition of productivity under the bargaining policy so that it can factor-in more than just straight labour cost savings. Part of the government’s wider characterisation of public servants having it easy have also been dealt a blow after a blistering Audit Office report on Centrelink’s call centres revealed the agency was, by its own estimate, 1000 staff and $100 million short of the resources needed to bring call waiting times down to five minutes. The same Audit found that more than 25 per cent of calls to Centrelink hit an engaged signal and never even made it through into its choked call centre system. “The department has estimated that to reduce the KPI to an average speed of answer of 5 minutes, it would need an additional 1000 staff at a cost of over $100 million each and every year.” But there is less trepidation over the industrial at the Australian Taxation Office. “The ATO has contingency plans in place to actively manage any industrial action in order to minimise any disruption to providing key services,” an ATP spokesperson said. “All ATO sites and facilities will remain open for normal operating hours tomorrow and we expect there will be minimal impact for the community.” However politicians and their staffers fearing they might get stranded for the weekend in Canberra can breathe easier. The CPSU on Monday scotched a rumour that flights out of Canberra could be hit by strikes, saying it had no knowledge of any such action. On Monday the CPSU rumour among some political staff in the corridors of the Big House that some Qantas flights departing Canberra on Thursday and Friday could be affected by industrial action to leave departing politicians stranded. [post_title] => Public Service mass walkouts hit Canberra amid CPSU strike [post_excerpt] => National Capital goes out over cuts to APS conditions. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => public-service-mass-walkouts-hit-canberra-amid-cpsu-strike [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-22 19:47:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-22 09:47:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=20207 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27775 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-07 14:08:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-07 04:08:42 [post_content] =>   The Australian Public Service Commission has released its updated guide to social media use by Federal public servants. The guide, Making public comment on social media: A guide for employees, leaves absolutely no room for employees to make critical comments of any of their ministers, superiors, or departments. Furthermore, it suggests public servants are liable to be disciplined even if they don’t promptly delete a critical post on their social media account by an outsider. First brought to light by a critical article in The Australian newspaper, the nine-page, 3,000+ word guide goes into some detail as to what is and what is not acceptable. Now listen up! “As members of the Australian community, Australian Public Service (APS) employees have the right to participate in public and political debate,” the document begins. “But this is not an unlimited right. APS employees have particular responsibilities under the Public Service Act 1999 that come with being employed as a public servant by the Commonwealth of Australia. In some cases, these responsibilities limit their ability to participate fully in public discussions, including on social media.” Criticism is a definite no-no. Whether it is the employee’s current agency, Minister, previous agency, or observations of a person, the guide is clear to begin with: “Criticising the work, or the administration, of your agency is almost always going to be seen as a breach of the Code. The closer your criticism is to your area of work, the more likely this will be.” The guide then goes on to warn that critical posts are not allowed after hours or in a declared private capacity, or even anonymously: “Even if you don’t identify yourself you can still be identified by someone else.” And just in case you’re wondering, your right to freedom of speech is, well, worthless: “The common law recognises an individual right to freedom of expression. This right is subject to limitations such as those imposed by the Public Service Act. In effect, the Code of Conduct operates to limit this right.” The commissioner responds The Australian Public Service Commissioner The Hon John Lloyd has responded to the detailed article published by The Australian newspaper, declaring it to be misrepresentative: “The use of social media by employees requires discretion and judgement,” he writes. “For this reason it is important that all employers, including those in the APS, ensure their employees clearly understand the expectations of their behaviour when they use social media. “The APSC consulted extensively with APS agencies and employees in late 2016. This consultation indicated that the policy settings did not need to change, but that current obligations were not well understood by employees. The CPSU encouraged its members to participate, and made a submission. “It is not more restrictive than previous guidance. Rather, it clarifies the parameters around what public servants can and cannot say, and should give greater confidence to APS employees when they are participating online activity. Submissions to the review indicated that aspects of the previous guidance was unclear and ambiguous, and that revised guidance should be simpler and easy to understand.” Straight from the Trump playbook: The Greens Greens employment spokesperson Adam Bandt MP slammed reports in The Australian that the Turnbull government will impose restrictions on public servants criticising his government on social media. "There must have been a few paragraphs missing from the leaked Trump/Turnbull transcript, because this latest crackdown on the public service is straight from the Trump playbook," said Mr Bandt. "If anyone challenges Trump, they get fired. Malcolm Turnbull, in his desperation to hang onto power, is trying to do the same. "Holding public servants responsible for what others post on their page is the stuff of the thought police. Your job shouldn't be in danger because someone shares a post on your page about marriage equality or action on climate change and you don't delete it. "This is a ruthless assault on freedom of speech that would make any demagogue proud.” The guide, Making public comment on social media: A guide for employees, is available here. [post_title] => Though shalt not criticise [post_excerpt] => The updated guide to social media use by Federal public servants has been released. 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