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Review of the APS:
Priorities for Change 
19 March 2019

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Priorities for Change
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978-1-925364-11-8 APS Review: Priorities for change (online)
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Cabinet, APS Review: Priorities for change

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Independent Review of the APS
Message from the chair 
Part I: Building an APS that is fit for the future 
   Context and case for change  
Priorities for the future 
Delivering lasting change  
Part II: Priorities for change  
Strengthen the culture, governance and leadership model 
Build a flexible APS operating model  
Invest in capability and talent development  
Develop stronger internal and external partnerships 
Next steps 
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Independent Review of the APS
Message from 
the chair
From left to right: Glyn Davis, Belinda Hutchinson, David  
Thodey, Alison Watkins, Gordon de Brouwer, Maile Carnegie
Ten months ago, the panel and I began the independent review of the 
Australian Public Service. Our instruction was to ensure the APS is fit for 
purpose in the decades ahead. 
During this time, we have been struck by just how important the APS is to 
Australia and its people. As our country faces new challenges and change, 
more than ever we need a public service that is united, trusted and focused 
on the people it serves.
We need the APS to provide stability and surety, to promote the wellbeing  
of all Australians, and to support successive governments in navigating future 
challenges – whether this is tackling entrenched disadvantage, harnessing the 
technological revolution to make lives better for all Australians, or defending 
Australia’s security and economic interests in a less stable world. In short, this 
means investing in the APS and setting it up to succeed – not for its own sake 
but for Australia’s.
This report reflects what we have learned and what changes we believe 
are needed to build an APS that is fit for the future. Part I summarises our 
approach and our understanding of the APS today, the challenges and 
opportunities it is facing, and our aspiration for the APS’s transformation. Part 
II sets out our current thinking on the priorities for change, and some of the 
initiatives we are considering to help deliver this change.
This report presents our current view – both what we think and what we’re still 
exploring. We were not asked to publish our interim findings, but we believe it 
is only through testing our thinking, openly and iteratively, that we will come 
to the best answers – robust, implementable recommendations that achieve 
the desired outcomes for the APS. 
So, please, challenge our thinking and take this opportunity to influence the 
future of the APS – and through it, Australia.
I would like to thank the other panel members, our Reference Group and the 
secretariat for their valuable contribution to date.   
David Thodey
Independent Review of the APS

Part I:
Building an APS that 
is fit for the future

Independent Review of the APS
Part I: Building an 
In May 2018, the Australian Government commissioned us, as an independent 
APS that is fit for 
panel, to review the APS to ensure it is fit-for-purpose for the coming decades. 
the future
We were asked to set out an ambitious transformation program and to guide 
and drive future public sector reforms. We will deliver our findings and 
recommendations to the Prime Minister in mid 2019 (see Exhibit 1: APS 
review journey at a glance). 
We are conscious of the significant and complementary reforms underway, 
including those led by the Secretaries’ APS Reform Committee. Our work 
builds on these important initiatives and the genuine groundswell for change 
we have seen across the APS.
Our approach, our optimism, and our findings are reflected in one aspiration: 
a trusted APS, united in serving all Australians. This aspiration forms the 
organising principle for the priorities for change set out in this report. 
The APS comprises 18 departments of state, more than 100 agencies and 
authorities, and over 150,000 employees. It is and will remain a broad and 
complex institution. The opportunity is to harness all of its skills, insights and 
energy. The APS must have a strong foundation of trust if it is to best serve 
Australia and its people. Integrity is, and will remain, a key determinant of  
trust – indeed, it has been remarked that if you have integrity, nothing else 
matters; if you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.
But we know that change cannot happen in isolation. There is much the APS 
can do to chart its own destiny and improve its performance, but strong support 
and active championing from outside the service is essential to deliver lasting, 
transformative change. There is a critical role for government in this context, 
but also for the Parliament and the Australian public – and we all stand to benefit.
The findings outlined in this report reflect what we have learned to date – through 
conversations with the public and APS employees, past and present, and through 
research into the APS and public sector reform (See Box 1: Insights and evidence 
underpinning this review). 
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 Exhibit 1: APS review journey at a glance
The Government announced the Review to ensure the APS is fit-for-purpose for the coming decades.
We asked
“What does the future hold for 
“What is the experience of practitioners, 
“What are the lessons of 
and our partners?”
the past?”
… and we heard
the insights and experiences of public servants, members of the public, experts and other 
government stakeholders and partners from Australia and the globe.
& analysis
people at 
survey responses
37 workshops
Then we identified characteristics of a fit-for-purpose APS in 2030
… and asked how we could make these a reality?
“How can we make sure the APS pulls 
“How can we make sure the APS is nimble 
“How should the APS work with partner 
in the same direction?”
and ready for change?”
organisations and parliament?”
“How do we make sure the APS gets and keeps 
“How can we make sure the work of the APS is all 
the people it needs?”
that we want it to be?”
We set a vision and designed a path to get there
Our research, your feedback and the evidence has helped us distil four priorities for change, 
and initiatives to achieve a fit-for-purpose APS for coming decades
The aspiration: A trusted APS, united in serving all Australians
Strengthen the  culture, 
Build a flexible 
Invest in capability and 
Develop stronger internal 
governance and leadership 
APS operating 
talent development 
and external partnerships 
Now, we’re asking you ‘Have we got this right?’
“How can we strengthen each proposal?”
“What are we missing?”
“How do we ensure lasting change?”
Final report to be provided to the Prime Minister.
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The proposals presented here build on ideas from the many stakeholders 
who have contributed to the review, voiced opinions, and offered solutions. 
The review is evidence-driven, drawing from available APS data, and new 
and existing independent research, using quantitative and qualitative 
analytical methods.
We are considering upwards of 700 submissions, 270 suggestions on 
our digital platform, 2900 survey responses, and the insights from 37 
roundtables and workshops – that have involved more than 550 members 
of the public and the APS at all levels. Our thinking is also shaped by more 
than 200 one-on-one meetings to date with parliamentarians, community 
and business leaders and others who work closely with the APS, as well 
as meetings with current and former public sector leaders.
We are also working with the Secretaries Board to ensure our proposals 
take note of – and build on – initiatives driven by its sub-committee, the 
APS Reform Committee, to modernise the APS. And we are drawing on the 
insights from the panel’s Reference Group, which brings together highly 
experienced national and international experts with diverse perspectives 
on the public sector.
We have sought to understand the APS’s operating environment in 2030 
through scenario planning. We have taken insights from previous APS 
reforms and the wealth of broader public sector scholarship, best practice 
guidance and case studies. 
We have also commissioned independent research from leading academics 
and practitioners through the Australia and New Zealand School of 
Government (ANZSOG) to further inform our deliberations (see Appendix 1). 
These papers do not necessarily reflect our views, but are important 
contributions and are being published to support public discussion.
Context and case for change 
In this section we consider the history and traditions of the APS, 
the context in which it operates today, and the extent to which 
the APS is ready to adapt and respond to emerging challenges 
and opportunities.
The APS history and tradition
Given the scope of this review, it is important to contextualise the history and 
role of the APS.
Since 1901, the APS has been a critical institution in Australia’s federation. 
Its work is broad and diverse. It provides impartial advice to government on 
national security, economic, social and foreign policy matters. It helps protect 
Australia’s national security and supports delivery of education, health, social, 
aged care and disability services. It collects taxes and manages government 
finances. And it helps develop, monitor, and enforce the laws and regulations 
that underpin much of Australia’s social compact.
Strikingly, over 70 per cent of the APS works in implementation, regulation or 
service delivery roles, and over 62 per cent of the workforce is located outside 
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Canberra (see Exhibit 2: The APS at a glance). Any changes to the service 
must have regard for the full breadth of its roles and how and where  
they are performed. 
The APS has a proud history of independent civil service. It has remained true 
to enduring values of acting as an apolitical steward of the common good for 
the people of Australia and serving as the institutional memory of the nation. 
These values are the basis on which reform must be built.
The APS has deep roots in the Westminster tradition, characterised by a 
continuous, impartial, and merit-based career civil service that supports the 
elected government. Crucially, as set out in its governing legislation, the APS 
is expected to efficiently and effectively serve the government, the Parliament 
and the Australian public. 
This model has proven remarkably durable, evolving over time to meet the 
demands of different eras – from the expanded role of the Commonwealth 
in World War II and the post-war reconstruction period, to establishing 
significant features of Australia’s social security system, and helping to drive 
important economic reforms in recent decades. Throughout, the APS has 
been a bedrock of stability and continuity for Australia’s democracy, serving 
successive governments. The Westminster tradition will remain the foundation 
for the APS in coming decades, provided it continues to evolve to meet the 
needs of the time.
Overall, international comparisons paint a positive picture of the APS. The OECD 
ranks Australia highly on regulation, data availability and accessibility. We enjoy 
above average citizen confidence and satisfaction in public services, including 
health care, education, law enforcement and the judicial system. The 2017 
International Civil Service Effectiveness Index ranked the APS third in the world 
– although it also identified room to improve in integrity, policy making, social 
security and tax administration, and human resource management. 
While proud to recognise the achievements and international standing of 
the APS, we must also understand where and why it is not meeting its full 
potential. As we discuss below, Australia needs the APS to be at its best to 
address the challenges and opportunities brought by new technology and 
broader social, geopolitical and economic developments.
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Exhibit 2: The APS at a glance 
Serving the people of Australia 
What the APS looks like
The APS’s work has a fundamental impact on individuals, families and 
businesses. There are many touchpoints where citizens expect access 
to quality, reliable services delivered in a way that meets their needs. 
In 2017-18, the APS:
Of which …
total employees
in social security and 
digital and online transactions 
small businesses 
work on implementation or 
welfare payments 
for Medicare, Centrelink and 
reigstered in the 
service delivery
child support services enabled
tax system 
17 tonnes+
international mail 
of illicit drugs and 
patents granted 
develop or enforce 
items inspected  
precursors seized 
They work in … 
passengers enabled 
successful electoral events 
agencies and 
and more than 
conducted since 2006-2007, 
4 million  aircraft 
including federal elections, 
by-elections & referendums, & 
industrial & commercial elections 
And are located in … 
APS Headcount
% of total APS
Northern Territory
2,000  1.3%
17,000   11.3%
Western Australia
7,000  4.6%
South Australia
9,000   6.0%
New South Wales
27,900   18.5%
Australian Capital 
1,500  1.0%
25,500  17%
57,100  37.9%
Source: Australian Public Service Commission’s 2017-18 State of the Service Report 
and departmental annual reports
3,700  2.5%
NOTE: Figures rounded to nearest 100
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Adapting to a rapidly changing world
The world is changing rapidly and it is important to consider the global trends 
that are affecting Australia and the APS. 
First, we are experiencing rapid and profound change in technology and 
connectivity. To put this in perspective, 90 per cent of the world’s data was 
produced in the last two years. The global number of connected devices was 
around 500 million in 2003, overtook the world’s population in 2014, and is 
expected to exceed 50 billion in 2025. 
Modern devices, app-based technologies, and tailored solutions driven by 
data analytics all show how technology can be used to ease many day-to-day 
challenges. In this context, people are coming to expect greater personalisation 
in the services they use.
Second, we have seen declining trust in traditional institutions, accompanied 
by dissatisfaction with public services and a push to solutions that are more 
local and personalised in design and delivery. The last five years have seen the 
emergence and rapid growth of new political parties in some of the world’s 
largest economies. Trust scores are the lowest on record, particularly for 
government. The pressures of 24/7 news coverage have been amplified by 
social media networks. 
Third, work and career paths are changing fundamentally, both inside and 
outside the public service. Demographic shifts, improving standards of 
living, and shifting workforce expectations are changing the nature of jobs 
and creating new opportunities. At the same time, enhanced use of data, 
automation and artificial intelligence (AI) present compelling opportunities 
for the APS to deliver better services for all Australians.
Approximately 40 per cent of the time spent on tasks performed by the APS 
today involves highly automatable data collection and processing (see Exhibit 
3: The future of work). Automation and digitisation can improve the experience 
for people interacting with the APS in areas such as grants and payments. 
It may also free employees from routine tasks, enabling them to spend more 
time on customer facing roles and other higher value activities. Further, it will 
provide opportunities to improve the service’s own enabling services, helping 
the whole APS deliver better outcomes.
Automation and digitisation should deliver better quality and more 
personalised services for Australians and will create opportunities for 
APS employees to build new skills and take on new roles. Realising these 
opportunities will require a joint commitment across the APS, reflected in 
a whole-of-service workforce strategy and supported by collaborative ways 
of working and common and interoperable enabling platforms.
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Exhibit 4: The future of Work
In the APS today approximately 40 per cent of time is spent 
Capturing the opportunities for improved services through 
on highly automatable tasks such as data collection 
automation will change the skills needed in the APS
and processing 
Estimated shift in skills in the APS 2017-2030, %
Estimated distribution of time on tasks, 2017 
% of total hours spent 
Expected automation 
adoption >= 20% by 2030
Expected automation 
adoption <= 20% by 2030
Basic cognitive
Collection data
Physical and 
manual skills
Higher cognitive
Processing data
Social and
emotional skills
Physical tasks
Source: McKinsey Global Institute automation impact model; APSC data
Finally, geopolitical instability is increasing, characterised by a rise in nationalism 
and populism and a decline in the influence of multilateral economic and 
security institutions and frameworks. Once-stable regional blocs are increasingly 
characterised by trade tensions or conflict, affecting many Australian markets. 
The implications of these technological, workforce and political global trends 
for the average Australian are profound. People experience remarkable levels 
of personalised service through new technology and have come to expect the 
same from all service providers. This trend will only continue. Australians are, on 
the whole, more sceptical of government and the media than ever before. And 
in coming decades Australia could face ongoing uncertainty about the global 
political and economic environment.
The implications for government and the APS are equally profound. The public 
sector will face increased expectations for delivery of seamless, personalised 
services. Social, economic and international flux will exacerbate policy 
challenges and put a premium on an understanding of, and connections 
into, Australian communities, the Asia-Pacific, and the world more broadly. 
The battle for talent will intensify. And in a contested, low-trust environment, 
politics will likely continue to be conducted as a ‘permanent campaign’, in 
turn influencing the priorities of government and the risk appetite of the 
public service. 
To help us understand these future challenges, we commissioned research 
to explore the global trends likely to affect the APS over the coming decades. 
This informed scenario planning for the future of the APS (see Box 2: Potential 
scenarios for the future of the APS).
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The work we commissioned identified four scenarios for 2030. All are 
provocative and extreme, yet still plausible. They are as follows:
1.  tech-dominated Australia where people embrace breakthrough 
technologies; rapid workforce transitions create new challenges; and 
data, advanced analytics and AI drive government policy and operations.
2.  An Australia where people are losing trust in big institutions and 
growing dissatisfied with standard public services, instead putting 
trust in local and place-based approaches.
3.  A scenario where people are frustrated with political institutions and 
demand personalised solutions; ‘echo chambers’ have replaced 
traditional sources of news; and Australians are increasingly taking 
control and governance into their own hands, using online platforms to 
engage with the APS to shape policy on the issues that matter to them.
4.   An  insular Australia where perpetual near-conflict and populist 
national views dominate the global political landscape, driving 
nationalistic sentiment in domestic politics.
Such scenarios are not an objective for Australia, but they usefully highlight 
the different environments in which the APS may need to operate. We cannot 
predict what the future will hold, but scenario planning helps us prepare for it 
by pushing our thinking beyond immediate problems. In reality, the future will 
likely comprise various elements from across the four scenarios.
Given the profound changes ahead, Australia and the APS will need to 
be adaptable and resilient. There are some clear ‘no regrets’ actions – for 
example, ensuring the APS’s people can deliver tailored solutions, developed 
in partnership with state and territory governments, communities and 
others, with greater flexibility and across organisational boundaries. This 
will require skills and mindsets that embrace analytics at scale, a focus on 
users in service design and delivery, and a commitment to openness and 
transparency. Stability and continuity – founded on a culture of integrity  
– will become even more vital during periods of volatility. 
Current context and challenges
In considering the large-scale shifts discussed above, we must also be mindful 
of the historical underpinning of today’s APS. 
Many aspects of the current culture, capabilities and operating model of the 
APS reflect reforms introduced over decades, including following the Royal 
Commission Report into Government Administration (the Coombs review) 
of 1976. Many changes were driven by new managerialism or New Public 
Management thinking that sought to deliver greater efficiency and value for 
money through the adoption of new practices.
These reforms saw widespread devolution across the APS. Responsibility for 
internal budgets and enabling functions was given to individual agencies, 
and departmental secretaries and agency heads were conceptualised as 
chief executive officers. Many changes focused on driving productivity, 
including through outsourcing significant public services to commercial 
and not-for-profit providers, introducing efficiency dividends for all agencies, 
and emphasising accountability for outcomes and outputs. Meanwhile, 
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governments have exerted greater influence over the APS over time, including 
through senior appointments and the role of ministerial advisers.
These changes have progressively reshaped the APS and delivered significant 
benefits. They have increased the responsibilities and autonomy of agencies, 
and driven a greater focus on performance, efficiency, strategy and delivery. 
They have also ensured increased responsiveness to ministers and governments. 
Despite the benefits, it is clear, three decades on, that the APS is now grappling 
with some of the inevitable consequential challenges in a rapidly changing 
operating environment. 
For example, devolution has empowered agencies – but has made it more 
difficult for the APS to tackle the interconnected challenges Australia will face 
in coming decades. There is widespread agreement that the constituent parts 
of the APS will need to work together on these challenges and to realise the 
opportunities provided by breakthrough technologies and better engagement. 
But this will be difficult with no APS-wide view on current capabilities, let 
alone future capability needs. And some approaches to service provision 
seem increasingly at odds with public expectations of a seamless experience, 
regardless of which agency is responsible. 
There are strong concerns the APS’s underlying capacity has been weakened 
over time. This is commonly reflected in suggestions about latent skills, 
talent leaking to the private sector, and missing capability and connections 
with Australia, the Asia-Pacific  and the rest of the world. The risk is that 
Australia will find itself with an APS that, in coming years, struggles to provide 
successive governments with integrated advice and support – informed by 
a deep understanding of the needs of the Australian people – to best tackle 
complex problems.
There are also concerns that the APS’s operating model can stand in the 
way of people, skills and resources being deployed in the most efficient 
and effective manner. And long-term underinvestment in major capital, 
particularly digital and data infrastructure, will risk leaving the APS with 
expensive legacy systems that do not support exceptional services or  
enable data-led policy making. 
And too often, successful leadership within the APS is more associated with 
responsiveness and upward management than with employee development, 
entrepreneurialism and stewardship of the service. These are not mutually 
exclusive attributes: there is a gap between the leadership skills and culture  
of today and those the APS needs to be at its best in the future.
These pressures are reflected in the veins of frustration evident across the 
service, and are affecting the APS’s confidence and institutional authority. 
They are not unique to Australia and are being faced by other Western liberal 
democracies. Nor is the APS the only institution facing challenges in response. 
But in Australia, these shifts and sentiments – and their impact on the APS 
– have been reinforced, and indeed exacerbated, by specific experiences in 
recent public memory. These include a number of high profile inquiries that 
have criticised key aspects of public administration.
The public should rightly expect the APS to serve Australia’s elected 
representatives. This remains a key feature of public services in all Westminster 
democracies, for parliamentarians are elected by the people; officials 
are not. But we can and should also expect our public service to provide 
continuity of service to successive governments, as required by the APS’s 
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governing legislation. This is ultimately about balance: the APS should be 
empowered both to remain responsive to the government of the day and to 
act as custodian of the range of functions and institutions that endure from 
government to government.
It is important to emphasise there are countless inspiring examples of 
excellence across the APS. These warrant greater recognition both within 
and beyond the service. They demonstrate the service can and does operate 
well in many contexts. But too often successes are not the rule and rely on 
workarounds, the commitment of individuals and teams, or some external 
impetus – often in the form of a crisis. In future, they will flow naturally from 
the prevailing culture, capability and operating model of the APS. 
Priorities for the future
In this section, we set out our aspiration for the APS, and our priorities 
for change to meet this aspiration.
Our aspiration
We need a trusted APS, united in serving all Australians. 
This aspiration has three parts. First, the APS must be trusted – by government, the 
Parliament and the people of Australia. Trust is founded on integrity, transparency 
and reliability, and these underpin our proposed priorities for change. 
As reflected in its legislated values, the APS must be ethical and act with 
integrity in all it does. This is an enduring feature of public administration 
across Western liberal democracies, most recently reinforced in Australia by 
bipartisan support for a new anti-corruption body. Integrity is vital to the APS 
performing its duties and, if anything, will become more so in the future. The 
APS operates in an increasingly complex environment with significant external 
pressures. It manages a multitude of formal and informal relationships 
with others outside the service, and undertakes frequent and high-value 
procurement decisions.
Second, our priorities are driven by the need for the APS to deliver more than 
the sum of its parts as a united institution. This does not mean homogeneity, 
false consensus, or the absence of rich debate across the constituent parts of 
the service. However, it does mean getting on the same page, with employees 
and agencies working to shared goals and collaborating for the benefit of 
those the APS serves. To do this, the APS must better harness its different 
people and agencies, its diverse insights and perspectives, and all its energy 
and will, to serve Australians. A united APS will be characterised by joined-up 
leadership and a flexible operating model, with collaboration the norm.
Finally, the APS must put the interests of the Australian people at the heart 
of all it does. From designing services with those who use them, to enabling 
participation in identifying and solving problems – for families, businesses, 
communities and the nation. The focus must be much more on the Australian 
people and much less on the internal business of the APS, guided by a deep 
spirit of service to others. This focus underpins our priorities for change, from 
governance at the most senior levels, to how outcomes are resourced and 
measured and how services are delivered and policy made.
To realise this aspiration, the APS will need to transform: its governance 
and leadership model, its operating model, its people, and its partnerships 
(see Exhibit 4: Priorities for building an APS fit for the future). These 
changes are summarised in turn below, with Part II of the report providing 
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further detail on our priorities for change and some proposed initiatives  
to deliver them. 
Our priorities for change to transform the APS are as follows.
Strengthen the culture, governance and leadership model 
Australia will increasingly need an APS that is more than the sum of its many 
parts. This means a service that instinctively pulls together to tackle complex  
challenges, bringing all its expertise, perspectives and resources to bear. Key to 
this will be ensuring the people of the APS understand and have confidence 
in what they are striving to achieve, and how well they are performing.  
Drawing on the different perspectives and contributions of all parts of the 
APS, this common purpose will unify the service and strengthen its ability 
to deliver outcomes that matter to the government, the Parliament and the 
Australian people. Crucial to this will be the individual leadership of each 
secretary and agency head, alongside the collective leadership of a revitalised 
Secretaries Board. Together, they will provide direction and cohesion, ensuring 
the APS can deliver on agreed priorities - many of which will transcend the 
responsibilities of particular portfolios and agencies.
In delivering these outcomes, a culture of openness, transparency and 
accountability will become the norm.
Build a flexible APS operating model
To meet these challenges, the future APS must be able to flexibly adopt new 
approaches, reconfigure teams, and deploy skills where and when most 
needed. This means having rules, systems, structures and ways of working 
that empower, not encumber, the flexibility and collaboration essential to 
advancing Australia’s long-term interests. It also means enabling the APS  
to meet government priorities quickly and adeptly, by bringing together  
the right people, insights, resources and energy from across the service to  
get the job done.
The workforce structures and practices of the future must therefore support 
effective decision-making, empower people and deepen the culture of 
collaboration across institutional boundaries. Networked enabling systems 
- including across HR, finance, ICT and data - and common processes will 
further break down boundaries between agencies and remove barriers to 
collaboration. An APS that is a leader among digitally enabled organisations 
will see people at all levels empowered to lead, innovate and coordinate to 
deliver effective outcomes. Common enabling platforms will position the 
service to utilise data and emerging technologies to the benefit of all.
These approaches will be underpinned by a flexible, disciplined budgetary 
framework that ensures the APS can meet the expectations of government and 
the public for high quality advice, regulation and delivery for decades to come.
Invest in capability and talent development 
To fully deliver upon future needs, the APS must also prioritise its own people - 
and be  supported in doing so. This includes boosting its leadership, capability 
and diversity – and supporting all staff to be ‘professional public servants’. 
We need an APS that builds and maintains the necessary skills, innovates 
across the service, and provides fulfilling work opportunities in an increasingly 
competitive labour market. 
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This will involve two major shifts. First, the APS will need to value and prioritise 
its people and their development far more. Second, the APS will need to 
undertake strategic, whole-of-service workforce analysis and planning as a 
matter of course - and use it to underpin long-term workforce strategies. 
New recruits and experienced hands alike will see positive change. They will 
be both trained in core public sector skills and supported to develop deep 
expertise in specialist areas. They will also see a wide range of possibilities for 
their career, supported by managers in realising their potential.
This workforce of capable and empowered people will lift APS performance. It 
will spearhead a renewed focus on the foundations of outstanding, integrated 
policy advice and delivery excellence – including through research, evaluation 
and data analytics – and ensure the APS best serves the government and the 
people of Australia. 
Develop stronger internal and external partnerships 
The APS’s impact, influence and success in the years and decades ahead will 
rely heavily upon meaningful, lasting relationships. Such relationships are 
essential if the APS is to deliver on government priorities and serve the public. 
This will require a fundamental shift in mindset and approach, with the APS 
bringing greater confidence in its role and contribution, and greater humility 
in how it partners with others. The partnerships will be many and varied - 
including with state, territory and local governments, civil society, business, 
communities, service providers, and the Australian public. They will be typified 
by the highest standards of ethics and integrity.
Relationships of this quality will be evident in genuine commitments to work 
with others (and willingness to be held to account), regular release of the 
valuable data and research the APS gathers and produces, and best practice 
approaches to engaging meaningfully with the public. In time it could also 
mean, for example, seamless, personalised service delivery through closer 
relationships with and between Commonwealth providers, and greater 
collaboration with states and territories. 
Nowhere is the importance of genuine partnerships truer than in supporting 
the aspirations of, and pursuing outcomes with, Aboriginal and Torres Strait 
Islander peoples. Now is the time for the APS to reconceptualise how it works 
with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The APS will also strengthen one of its most critical relationships – with 
Ministers and their offices – including by providing ministers with better  
access to APS expertise and insights. 
Implementation is key 
Some of these priorities have been recommended in past reviews but have 
either not been fully implemented or their original intent has not been fully 
realised. And taken individually, no single idea is sufficient to drive meaningful 
change in the APS. The APS will be fundamentally transformed if: 
■ the complete set of initiatives is taken forward as an integrated package
■ they are owned and embedded across the APS – which will require a new 
and sustained approach to implementation.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Exhibit 4: Priorities for building an APS fit for the future
The aspiration: a trusted APS, united in serving all Australians
Priorities for change
Build a 
Invest in capability 
the culture, 
flexible APS 
and talent 
stronger internal 
governance and 
operating model 
and external partnerships 
leadership model
Shared purpose and values 
A dynamic operating model that 
An integrated workforce strategy, 
Working openly and with integrity 
across the APS, championed by 
enables collaboration and 
building and maintaining 
with partners, to support the 
strong and accountable leaders 
focusses APS energy on the 
service-wide skills to deliver and 
delivery of outcomes for 
highest priorities
 Common purpose and 
  Dynamic ways of 
 Professionalised functions 
 Seamless services and local 
vision that unites and 
working and structures to 
across the service to 
solutions designed and 
inspires the APS
empower individuals and 
deepen expertise 
delivered with states, 
teams – making 
territories and other 
 Secretaries Board driving 
 Empowered managers 
collaboration the norm
outcomes across 
accountable for 
government and APS 
 Strategic allocation of 
developing people and 
 An open APS, accountable 
funds and resources to 
for sharing information 
outcomes and essential 
and engaging widely 
 A defined ‘head of service’ 
 Strategic recruitment, 
and ‘head of people’
development and 
 Strategic, service-wide 
 Networked enabling 
mobility to build the 
approaches to 
 Clarity and confidence in 
systems and common 
workforce of the future 
procurement to deliver 
the appointment and 
processes across the 
better value and 
expectations of secretaries
 21st century delivery, 
outcomes for Australians
regulation and policy 
 Genuine transparency and 
 Ministers supported 
accountability for 
through easier access to 
delivering outcomes for 
 Policy advice that 
APS expertise and insights 
integrates social, 
and formal recognition of 
economic, security  and 
distinct role of ministerial 
international perspectives
Implementation: delivering lasting change
 Senior leadership cohort who 
 A transformation leader with the 
 Funding, resources and 
own transformation
influence to drive and coordinate delivery
support to drive 
 Clear prioritisation of reforms, 
 Deep engagement across the service in 
focusing on the most 
developing and implementing change 
 Meaningful metrics for short 
important things first
with service-wide investment in capability 
and long term success of 
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Delivering lasting change 
This section lays out the panel’s initial perspective on how to ensure 
change is implemented fully and effectively across the APS.
Having examined many previous recommendations to improve the APS 
(see Appendix 2), it is striking that many of the issues and suggested solutions 
are evergreen. Though the Coombs review was the last exercise of similar scope, 
on average there has been more than one major review every year for the past 
15 years. 
Beyond these formal reviews, there is also a substantial body of work on public 
sector reform by government agencies, such as the Australian Public Service 
Commission (APSC) , parliamentary committees, the Productivity Commission, 
the Australian National Audit Office and the Commonwealth Ombudsman. This 
sits alongside a wealth of academic discourse, international experience, and 
domestic and global case studies.
This material provides insights for the review and conclusions that warrant 
reiterating. But it also suggests that, regardless of the richness of ideas about 
what needs to happen to prepare the APS for the future, making it happen 
is a very different matter. 
Many people involved in developing and implementing past reviews are 
justifiably proud of the changes achieved. But they also reflect with some 
frustration that many solutions and innovations have not been fully delivered 
or the intent fully realised.
In some cases, the momentum for reform petered out. In others, technical 
change was made and the box ticked, but the desired outcome was not 
realised. Resourcing constraints and a lack of continuity in leadership are 
common, and often very valid, explanations. Notably, reforms seen to have had 
most impact are characterised by strong APS and political support, a sound and 
transparent case for change, and clear accountability for implementation.
In finalising this review, the panel will therefore give equal consideration to how 
change is implemented, not just what changes are required. This is difficult 
in any organisation, let alone an institution as large and complex as the APS. 
Globally, there are more examples of failed public sector transformations than 
successes. And there is inevitably some cynicism about the possibility of change, 
or about having heard it all before. Simplistic solutions will not suffice. Nor 
should we just turn to the private sector for the answers.
The deep spirit of service across the APS is striking. This is a remarkable quality. 
There is genuine enthusiasm and willingness across the APS – from graduates 
to the Secretaries Board – to engage in real, not token, reform. There is much 
the APS can already do to improve its own performance. Considerable work is 
underway, and much of what we think is needed can be readily implemented 
within existing legislative and policy frameworks. 
But, beyond the APS, the broader authorising environment really matters. In 
particular, government – as a key beneficiary – has a vital role. In some instances 
the government will need to specifically agree and resource the necessary 
changes. In other areas, government will simply need to champion and support 
the APS to do what needs to be done. 
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Without such an authorising environment there are still good prospects for 
continued incremental performance improvement across the service. But the 
opportunity for genuine, lasting transformation will be lost.
It will therefore be important to identify and focus on early quick wins, 
within what will be a long-term reform agenda. This will help make these 
initiatives tangible and meaningful for the APS’s people and provide assurance 
to government and other stakeholders that the effort and resources are 
worthwhile and should be sustained.
Box 3: Ensuring successful reform sets out some principles the panel will 
consider in settling its findings on implementation of the review.
Success means a fit-for-purpose APS that delivers for governments, the 
Parliament and the people of Australia over coming decades. This will be 
measured by the APS’s readiness to adapt, to deliver and to renew itself 
to help Australia prosper in the years ahead. It will also be measured by 
the impact it has on Australia. 
As set out in our terms of reference, we will propose a transformation 
program to ensure delivery of  recommendations and to guide and drive 
future APS reforms. This will build on important  work already underway, 
including that led by the Secretaries’ APS Reform Committee. We will 
also make these changes concrete by illustrating what they will mean  
for the day-to-day working lives of people across the public service.  
Drawing on global and domestic public and private sector experience, 
we have identified key principles for successfully changing large, complex 
organisations. We are considering these in the context of potential 
approaches to implementing the outcomes of this review. The common 
elements of successful large-scale transformations include:
■ committed leadership to ensure reforms are owned and embodied 
at senior levels across the service – and leaders act consistently with the 
reform directions
■ clear prioritisation of reforms, focused on the most important things at 
all times with scope to take stock and adjust priorities as necessary
■ a transformation leader with the resources and influence to drive and 
coordinate delivery 
■ deep engagement of people across the service – at all levels and in 
all places – in developing and implementing changes, supported by 
compelling communication and investment in  capability building to 
underpin ambitious reform 
■ short, medium, and long-term metrics for success, including specific 
indicators of impact, so implementation remains focused on delivering 
outcomes, rather than ticking off recommendations
■ enduring funding, resources and support, including from government, 
to enable genuine transformation
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
We recognise that some – though not all – of the current proposals entail cost. 
Some reprioritisation and more strategic use of current resources is certainly 
conceivable. But government will ultimately have decisions to make once our 
final report is provided, balancing the importance of investing in the future of 
the APS against many other priorities.
The long-term benefits of adequately resourcing APS transformation will 
be profound for the nation as a whole. An enduring funding mechanism to 
support these reforms over the coming years is therefore highly desirable. There 
are domestic and international precedents for such an approach – indeed, 
the current Public Service Modernisation Fund is predicated on reinvesting a 
proportion of the efficiency dividend into a range of projects. The panel will 
further consider these issues when finalising this review.
Independent Review of the APS

Part II:
Priorities for change 

Independent Review of the APS
Part II: Priorities 
We need a trusted APS, united in serving all Australians. This is our aspiration 
for the APS. We’ve outlined how we have arrived at this aspiration in Part I of 
for change 
this report. Part II sets out the four priorities to deliver this aspiration. In this 
section you will find the following information:
i.   An overview of each priority: the context and the transformation 
opportunity, supported by a selection of insights that have informed 
our thinking.
ii.   Some proposed initiatives to deliver change: further details on what 
we think is needed, what is shaping our thinking, and what we 
are still exploring.
By releasing the information in this section, we are sharing and testing  
our thinking with everyone who is interested in how the APS will operate  
in the future. 
You will see that these priorities for change and potential initiatives may not 
always present a complete picture of the required transformation. This reflects 
our current view – both what we know and what we’re still exploring. 
We would like to invite you to add to, and challenge, our thinking to assist 
us in making the final recommendations as strong as possible. We have 
also published the submissions, research, insights and feedback that have 
informed our thinking.  
Go to our website and give your comments and 
feedback by 2 May 2019. We’re asking you the 
following questions:
■ How can we strengthen each proposal?
■ What are we missing?
■ How do we ensure lasting change?
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Priority: Strengthen the 
Shared purpose and values across the APS, championed by strong 
culture, governance and 
and accountable leaders. 
leadership model
■  The APS has a compelling institutional foundation. Its mission is to be 
What we have heard
an apolitical public service that acts with integrity in all it does, and is 
■ “For the APS to be best 
efficient and effective in serving the government, the Parliament and  
placed to serve Australian 
the Australian public.
governments and the 
community into the future, 
it is essential there is visible, 
■ Australia needs a confident and impactful APS to help tackle complex, 
cohesive leadership and 
interdisciplinary problems in coming decades, ranging from delivering 
a clear strategic vision for 
seamless services, to navigating international and security interests, and 
the APS delivering on the 
working with communities on local solutions. 
principle that a citizen’s 
interactions with government 
■ Globally, trust in large institutions has fallen significantly. The APS is not 
are as integrated and 
immune: Australians want their public service to be accountable and 
seamless as possible.” 
transparent, and to operate with integrity. 
Submission – Australian 
Taxation Office 
■ There is an aspiration within the service to be one APS, bringing together 
■ “Public service should be 
the best of all its parts, but this is not lived in practice – incentives, 
based on stewardship 
institutional structures and the broader authorising environment push 
and accountability to 
work into vertical siloes that inhibit collaboration and the ability to deliver 
drive long-term outcomes 
better outcomes. 
‘leaving something better 
off than we found it’.” 
The transformation opportunity 
Public workshop
■ Service-wide leadership around clarity of purpose, vision, values and 
■ “… the lack of unifying 
collective outcomes will ensure that all public servants and agencies see 
purpose plays a significant 
themselves as part of the service, harnessing their talents and insights in 
role in the weaknesses the 
the interests of Australia.
APS has in collaboration and 
coordination, governance, 
■ Clear roles and responsibilities for the APS at its most senior levels – and a 
strategic decision-making 
renewed mandate for its leaders to work across the service – will enable it to 
and organisational 
work for the collective benefit of Australia and build long-term capability.
performance management.” 
Submission - Anonymous
■ Strengthened governance, with clearer accountability, will drive improved 
■ “There are enormous 
performance with a renewed focus on integrity.
benefits to encouraging 
joined-up outcomes, 
particularly as policy 
problems become more 
interconnected and 
dependent on the efforts of 
multiple actors.” Submission 
– Melbourne School of 
■ “The central issue … is to 
demonstrate that top 
appointments in the APS 
are merit-based, and 
that the public and the 
Parliament can be confident 
that appointees can and 
will promote as well as 
uphold the Values including 
of impartiality and non-
partisanship.” Submission 
– Andrew Podger
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Exhibit 5: A selection of insights informing our thinking on the need to strengthen the culture, governance 
and leadership model 
We aspire to be a united APS but this is not lived in 
Research shows that a shared purpose brings 
employees together and delivers benefits
Proportion of APS staff who identify primarily as either an 
of executives believe that purpose-driven 
APS employee or an employee of their agency
companies will deliver a higher quality of 
81% products and services for their clients1
% of respondents
An APS employee
An employee of your agency
Employees who feel connected to their company’s 
mission and find meaning and purpose at work are 
as likely to 
be satisfied 
2.2x at work
“One of the benefits for higher-purpose driven 
companies is an increase in the willingness of 
45 55
40 60
teams to partner across functions and product 
Small agency
Medium agency
Large agency
Total APS
SOURCE: APS Employee Census, 2016, q26: If asked to choose, which would you 
SOURCE: 1. HBR/EY, The business case for purpose, 2015; 2. HBR/The Energy 
primarily consider yourself to be? 
Project, Human era at work, 2014 
There are opportunities for leaders to set clearer strategic 
Strong and accountable leaders are key to success-
vision and foster collaboration
ful change 
Respondents indicating that action was taken during 
transformation, weighted % of total , global sample
Under 60% of staff think their 
Completely successful 
SES set a clear strategic 
60% direction for the agency1
Leaders role-modelled the 
behaviour changes they 
were asking their employees 
to make
Under 60% think SES 
clearly articulate the 
60% direction and priorities 
Leaders were held accountable 
for the agency1
for their contributions to change 
programs in their annual  
performance evaluations
Under 45% of APS 
employees agree their 
45% SES collaborates with 
communicated openly and 
other agencies2
across the organisation about 
progress and success
SOURCE: 1 2018 APS employee census [Q31c,g,h) [agree or strongly agree] 2 2012 
SOURCE: McKinsey Centre for Government Transformation Survey, 
APS employee census [q53.iv strongly agree or agree]  - this question did not 
December 2017
appear in recent years, but related questions and submissions to the panel suggest 
this remains a challenge for the service 
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Strengthen the  
What we think is needed
culture, governance  
■ A legislative requirement to develop an inspiring purpose and vision that 
and leadership model
unifies the public service, linked to and building on the existing Public 
Service Act values. The purpose should articulate the reason for the APS’s 
existence. The vision should outline how the service works and contributes 
Common purpose 
to Australia.
and vision that 
■ A vision for the APS, developed by the Secretaries Board and supported 
unites and inspires 
by the APS200 (agency heads and deputy secretaries cohort), drawing on 
the APS
feedback and ideas from across the service.
The APS has no articulated common 
purpose and vision to complement 
■ The vision, purpose and values to be embedded in the APS’s culture and 
its legislated objects and values. With 
way of working, including through public reporting on outcomes and 
the issues that matter most becoming 
management of performance.
increasingly complex and crossing 
portfolio boundaries, a shared purpose  What is shaping our thinking 
and vision can provide a foundation 
■ The well-established practice in high-performing organisations that 
for coherent leadership, service 
aligning around an aspirational purpose and vision improves individual 
alignment and shared execution 
satisfaction and lifts organisational performance. 
across the APS.
■ Current legislation that establishes “an apolitical public service that is 
efficient and effective in serving the government, the Parliament and the 
Australian public”
. It also requires collaboration across agencies, and that 
individual agencies develop annual purpose statements. 
■ Feedback that, while current legislation helps define who the APS serves 
and outlines agency responsibilities and deliverables, it does not provide a 
focal point for the APS to deliver its work, or address complex or  
cross-cutting issues.
■ Commonwealth agencies have purpose and mission statements, which 
provide a  frame for their work and have been effective in helping 
employees clearly identify with their agency. This has resulted in  
hundreds of purpose statements across the service. 
■ Evidence that, for a shared purpose to endure and move beyond rhetoric,  
it should be co-developed through genuine engagement with employees. 
■ Positive feedback from current APS employees that a common purpose 
and vision would assist in linking their daily work to a national perspective 
and align the service. 
What we are still exploring
■ Effective ways to embed the common purpose and vision across the 
service to drive better outcomes.
■ Whether the present APS values should be amended alongside a new 
purpose and vision.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Strengthen the  
What we think is needed
culture, governance  
■ Secretaries Board with the decision-making rights and support to fulfil its 
and leadership model
mandate in leading the APS – including by driving cross-portfolio policy 
and delivery outcomes and ensuring the APS is fit for the future.
■  Secretaries Board to prepare a national outlook – with key trends, 
Board driving 
opportunities and challenges for Australia, based on service-wide data and 
outcomes across 
insights – published after each election to help inform government policy.
government and 
■ Greater access to and communication of the work and decisions of the 
APS performance
Secretaries Board, where appropriate, consistent with its leadership role.
The Secretaries Board is the APS’s 
■ Establishment of specific Secretaries Board committees as required  
principal service-wide governance 
to support delivery of government priorities (for example, mirroring  
body. There is an opportunity to 
Cabinet committees) and service-wide initiatives (for example, the APS 
build on its high-level legislated 
Reform Committee).
responsibilities, with the Board 
driving collective accountability  
What is shaping our thinking 
for leadership of the APS and  
■  The current legislated functions of the Secretaries Board, including: 
unifying the service in delivering  
taking responsibility for stewardship of the APS; identifying strategic 
on government priorities and 
priorities; drawing together advice from senior leaders in government, 
outcomes for Australians.
business and the community; and working collaboratively and modelling 
leadership behaviour. 
■ The relationship between accountability of secretaries to their portfolio 
ministers and secretaries’ broader stewardship and cross-service 
responsibilities as set out in legislation.
■ Feedback on limited APS or public awareness of the Secretaries Board, 
alongside evidence that, for the best organisational outcomes, key 
governance boards must clearly and regularly communicate their role  
and decisions. 
■ Experience of comparable international jurisdictions that demonstrates 
the benefits of outcomes-focused governance structures that enable cross 
portfolio collaborative approaches (for example, Canada and New Zealand).
■ Work already undertaken by the Secretaries Board to support service-wide 
initiatives, such as the Diversity Council and APS Reform Committee. 
What we are still exploring
■ Appropriate governance, resourcing and support for a strengthened 
Secretaries Board. This could include a delivery assurance function to help 
monitor and drive delivery of whole-of-government outcomes. 
■ How to best reflect in legislation and practice the distinct and complementary 
roles of the Secretaries Board, individual secretaries, the Secretary of the 
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and the  
APS Commissioner.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Strengthen the  
What we think is needed
culture, governance  
■ Role and responsibilities of the Secretary of PM&C, as ‘head of service’, 
and leadership model
explicitly set out in legislation. 
■ Responsibilities of the APS Commissioner clarified in legislation, as ‘head 
A defined ‘head  
of people’, including a reinforced role in appointment and performance 
of service’ and  
management of Senior Executive Service (SES) officers, and responsibility 
‘head of people’ 
for professions and for leading a strengthened pro-integrity regime. 
The APS needs empowered and 
■ Measures to ensure confidence in the appointment process for the APS 
accountable leaders to set the 
Commissioner, such as requiring parliamentary consultation.
tone and direction for the service. 
In particular, the Secretary of 
■ A revamped APSC, empowered to fully deliver on its responsibilities, 
PM&C and the APS Commissioner 
including through sustainable resourcing and strengthened in-house 
have critical roles in, respectively, 
overall leadership of the service 
and responsibility for people and 
What is shaping our thinking 
capability within the APS.   
■ The analysis and findings of the ANZSOG paper ‘Being a trusted and 
respected partner: the APS integrity framework’ by Nikolas Kirby and 
Simone Webbe.
■ The experience of other jurisdictions, domestic and international, in 
defining and enacting key leadership responsibilities (for example,  
Canada and New Zealand).
■ Previous reviews that have envisaged a strengthened role for the APSC,  
but implementation has not enabled the necessary change. 
■ ‘Division 2 – Commissioner’s appointment, conditions etc.’ of the Public 
Service Act 1999. 
What we are still exploring
■ Mechanisms to underpin and reinforce the head of service role for the 
Secretary of PM&C – for example, directions powers. 
■ Governance options to support the APS Commissioner discharge their role, 
such as an advisory board.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Strengthen the  
What we think is needed
culture, governance  
■ Retention of the Prime Minister’s legislated role to make recommendations 
and leadership model
to the Governor-General on the appointment of departmental secretaries. 
■  A codified process to inform these recommendations, including 
Clarity and 
published criteria.
confidence in the 
appointment and 
■  Transparency around performance expectations and management of 
secretaries. This could include clear criteria on the basis for performance 
expectations of 
and evaluation, and measures linked to legislated responsibilities, 
government and ministerial priorities, and departmental and service-
wide outcomes.
As set out in legislation, departmental 
secretaries have vital roles at the 
What is shaping our thinking 
apex of the APS, both as principal 
■ ‘Part 7—Secretaries of Departments’ in the Public Service Act 1999
policy advisors to ministers and as 
leaders and stewards of the service. 
■  Feedback on the benefits of greater clarity in this area, including for 
It is therefore important that all 
quality of APS advice to ministers and the ongoing recruitment of 
Australians have confidence in 
potential future leaders. 
the appointment, performance 
management and termination 
■ The experience of international jurisdictions, such as New Zealand and the 
processes for secretaries. 
UK, with prescribed processes for appointments of departmental heads.
What we are still exploring
■ Options to support advice to the Prime Minister on appointments, for 
example a panel including the Secretary of PM&C, the APS Commissioner 
and a ministerial nominee. 
■ Options for greater rigour and transparency for any proposed termination 
of secretaries, while retaining the Prime Minister’s legislated role to make 
recommendations to the Governor-General.
■ Structural options to support greater collaboration among secretaries.
■ Appointment processes and expectations of agency heads, building on 
existing guidelines.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Strengthen the  
What we think is needed
culture, governance  
■ Public performance commitments and reporting that focus on measures 
and leadership model
and outcomes that matter to the Australian people.
■ The Secretaries Board taking a prominent role in improving the quality of 
performance reporting across the service, including through realising the 
transparency and 
intent of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 
accountability for 
2013 (PGPA Act) and with a focus on providing meaningful information 
to people. 
delivering outcomes 
for Australians
■ Reinstatement of regular independent capability reviews for all departments 
and large agencies. Such reports – and management responses – should be 
It is important that measures of 
publicly released. 
outcomes and performance in the 
APS are not exclusively based on 
■ Publication of annual APS employee census results for each agency, 
agency silos, reflect a robust evidence 
alongside management responses, with the APS Commissioner empowered 
base, and address project or cross-
to review results that warrant attention. 
portfolio outcomes that matter 
most to Australians. This will boost 
■ A disposition to seek and act upon external perspectives to help improve 
accountability and trust in the service. 
agency health, for example, through the greater use of advisory boards. 
A future APS will welcome scrutiny 
and feedback, and make the most 
What is shaping our thinking 
of such insights to lift performance 
■ Feedback that fear of failure is affecting the approach to performance 
across the service. 
reporting, including use of metrics that are easier to measure rather than 
outcomes of importance to the public. 
■ International (for example New Zealand and Canada) and domestic (NSW 
and WA) efforts to improve  transparency of performance, for both policy 
and citizen-service measures. 
■ Relevant findings of the ‘Independent Review into the Operation of the 
Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013’ (PGPA Act 
Review), particularly recommendations 1, 4 and 34.
What we are still exploring
■  How to ensure that any new arrangements around APS performance 
reporting are useful to the Parliament, including the Joint Committee  
for Public Accounts and Audit and other parliamentary committees. 
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Priority: Build a flexible 
A dynamic operating model that enables collaboration and focusses 
APS operating model 
APS energy on the highest priorities.
■ Like all large, complex organisations, the APS will need to adapt to respond 
What we have heard
effectively to shifting challenges in an uncertain future. 
■ “Our research into MoG 
changes suggests they 
■ Organisations that adopt more dynamic operating models respond faster 
are frequently enacted 
to changing priorities, better meet the needs of people they serve, and 
but poorly implemented… 
engage and empower employees. 
and highly disruptive.” 
Submission – UNSW, Public 
■ The APS and its people aspire to a unified service, but significant cultural 
Service Research Group 
and structural barriers constrain effective collaboration outside of crises.
■ “There are different HR and 
■ Many of the APS’s systems, processes and policies limit the flow of 
filing systems, different 
information, people and resources between agencies. Efforts to harmonise 
reporting structures and 
this have faced challenges of coordination, funding, and governance. 
so on. This results in an 
incredible waste of time to 

■ Machinery of Government (MoG) changes are a principal means for 
transfer from one agency 
governments to align APS functions around their priorities. Over the past 
within the APS to another.” 
20 years, the APS has undergone more than 200 MoG changes. 
Submission - Anonymous
The transformation opportunity 
■ “It is imperative that 
■ An APS with common or networked enabling platforms, systems and 
cultures and behaviours 
policies will deliver efficiencies and allow resources and people to be 
across the APS facilitate 
focused on strategic priorities.  
collaboration across 
portfolios, including 

■ Rather than reverting to centralisation and control, a move to common, 
as policy priorities and 
shared or interoperable platforms will enable the APS to link up and 
portfolio intersections 
coordinate to deliver more effective outcomes.
change.” Review 
questionnaire - Department 
■ A better flow of information and people across the APS will facilitate 
of Human Services
collaboration across and within agencies, allowing faster and more 
effective responses.
■ “[To] support a culture of 
collaboration [we need] 
■ An improved resourcing and financing framework will ensure that, 
the development of a 
consistent with government policy, the APS can reallocate resources 
consistent set of principles 
proactively and – for example – enable investment in the underlying  
for working together.” 
digital platforms needed to deliver long-term outcomes.
Submission - Australian 
Taxation Office
■ Simpler workforce structures will support effective decision-making, 
empower employees and deepen the culture of collaboration across 
institutional boundaries.
■ A truly dynamic operating model will reduce the need for MoG changes – 
and when they are needed they will be cheaper, quicker, and more efficient. 
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Exhibit 6: A selection of insights informing our thinking on the need to build a flexible APS 
operating model 
The APS lacks common ways of working, networked enabling systems, and resource allocation processes needed dynamic 
prioritisation and collaboration
Survey of APS on operating model dimensions that contribute to organisational agility
%, n = 900
Strongly agree
Somewhat agree
Somewhat disagree
Strongly disagree
People in the APS are able to move seamlessly 
between agencies as a result of standardised 
approaches and systems (e.g. HR practices, security 
procedures, IT)
Decision-making processes at my agency 
are efficient and timely
My agency redeploys resources (e.g. 
high-performing individuals, funds) to 
where they are needed most
The APS is broadly underpinned by consistent 
and common workplace practices and 
business processes at agency-level
SOURCE: Results from APS Review survey of operating model elements across the service. Note: Figures do not add to 100% as neutral responses are not included
APS processes and systems are fragmented and some 
Organisations that have adopted agile 
are nearing end of life
working practices see benefits
Survey on impact of agile practices1
% of respondents who believe agile has 
bespoke IT systems being separately 
produced better outcomes, n=3880
managed and maintained across 
170+ the APS to deliver corporate services1
…ability to manage
changing priorities
bespoke business 
…increased team
processes across 
200+ government agencies 
with little coordination
…increased team
SOURCE: Department of Finance
SOURCE: 10th Annual State of Agile report, VersionOne, 2016
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Build a flexible APS 
What we think is needed
operating model
■ An operating model that dynamically responds to new and shifting 
priorities, with a culture and shared ways of working that allow teams to 
come together to tackle priorities for government and the Australian people.
Dynamic ways 
of working 
■ The optimum hierarchies, management layers and spans of control to 
and structures 
empower people and teams, and drive effective decision-making.  
to empower 
■ Performance measures that reward collaboration and support employees 
individuals and 
to excel in a dynamic and adaptive environment.
teams – making 
What is shaping our thinking 
■ Increasing evidence that more dynamic ways of working help large 
the norm
organisations respond to people’s needs faster, deliver better outcomes, 
Australia’s most significant public 
increase productivity and improve employee engagement. 
policy challenges are invariably 
complex and will increasingly cut 
■ Concerns that current work practices too often reflect individual agency 
across portfolio and organisational 
preferences and focus, rather than being oriented around solving complex 
boundaries. The future APS must be 
issues and delivering outstanding services..
able to take on challenges with the 
capacity to adopt new approaches, 
■ Balancing the important prerogative of government to structure the 
reconfigure teams and deploy skills 
APS as it sees fit, against feedback on the cost, disruption and variable 
where and when most needed. 
outcomes when such MoG changes occur. 
Machinery of government changes 
can be used to align the APS with 
■ Work underway through the Secretaries Board examining structures and 
government priorities, but the service 
operating models, to ensure the APS way of working supports integration, 
should not wait for – or rely on – these 
efficiency and a focus on citizen services.
to transform the way it works.   
■ Feedback that current structures and ways of working inhibit information 
sharing and can delay decision-making. Evidence on optimal approaches 
to hierarchy, management layers, and spans of control in improving 
efficacy of decision-making and overall organisational health. 
What we are still exploring
■ Initiatives to drive the necessary cultural change to embed new ways of 
working, including training, incentives and other support.
■ Opportunities for the APS to meet government expectations and minimise 
the need for MoG changes, and to reduce costs and disruption when they 
do occur. 
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Build a flexible APS 
What we think is needed
operating model
■ A budgetary framework that: retains fiscal discipline and aligns spending 
with government priorities; enables faster resource reallocation and 
improved collaboration; and ensures the APS is sustainably resourced  
to serve the government, the Parliament and the Australian public. 
allocation of funds 
and resources 
■ Clear alignment between government priorities and public service 
resourcing. This could include agreement on a small number of cross-
to outcomes 
portfolio policy priorities (guided by government and supported by 
and essential 
Secretaries Board) and reprioritising existing spending to reflect these. 
■ Processes to ensure ministers receive the best Budget advice from 
Some aspects of the Budget process 
an investment and policy perspective, taking a whole-of-government 
can have unintended consequences 
approach to funding and incorporating long-term assessments of  
for APS collaboration, experimentation 
program and investment outcomes.
and long-term thinking. This risks 
undermining both the quality of 
■ A sustainable approach to departmental capital funding, including greater 
advice to government and the 
capacity to invest in long-term projects.
implementation of government 
decisions. A cross-portfolio approach 
What is shaping our thinking 
to allocating resources and prioritising 
■ The important role of government in setting Budget rules that best support 
investments presents an opportunity 
its fiscal strategy and policy priorities.
to deliver better outcomes for all. 
■ Governments’ expectations that APS systems, and structures and 
resourcing enable both the development of good policy and budget 
advice, and the effective implementation of government decisions.
■ Feedback that some processes are impeding the APS’s ability to reallocate 
resources to shifting priorities, or to work across agency boundaries to 
design or implement policies that reflect cross-government priorities and 
deliver the best results for people. 
■ Concerns around the approach to investment in APS infrastructure and 
systems, including: the way offsets work in practice; challenges presenting 
the benefits of longer-term investment; and the steady decline of 
departmental capital budgets.
■ Recent efforts to address internal APS capital investment priorities, 
including initiatives such as the Modernisation Fund.   
■ The experience of other jurisdictions in aligning whole-of-government 
priorities with civil service resourcing, including through long-term results 
frameworks and outcomes-based budgeting (e.g. New Zealand, NSW and 
the UK).  
What we are still exploring
■ The best approach to funding for APS capital investments and sustainable 
departmental capital allocation models. 
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Build a flexible APS 
What we think is needed
operating model
■ A stable spine of common digital platforms and policy frameworks that 
can operate across the APS for core enabling services, including human 
resources, finance, ICT and data sharing.
Networked enabling 
systems and 
■ The Secretaries Board to oversee development of this spine, subject to any 
common processes 
direction by government. In driving digital transformation across the APS the 
Board should provide clear guidance on which enabling functions should be 
across the service
common or shared and which should be bespoke.
Despite some promising new 
initiatives, the APS’s disparate 
■ A digitally enabled APS, with sophisticated systems and deep capabilities 
enabling systems and processes  
in data analytics, AI and automation.
are affecting its performance, 
efficiency and capacity to meet 
■  Staged implementation of the required changes, commensurate 
expectations. A move to networked 
with available resources, and prioritisation of projects that drive a 
and common arrangements would 
collaborative culture.
facilitate greater mobility and 
collaboration, build digital capability, 
■ A move towards common pay and conditions across the service. 
and make the most of automation 
and AI in service delivery.
What is shaping our thinking 
■ Feedback that many APS assets are nearing end of life, concerns over 
potential business risks, and support for a coordinated service-wide 
approach to investment in this area. 
■ Feedback that a lack of standardised processes and systems (such as for HR, 
security, IT) are barriers to working across internal APS boundaries; and that an 
inability to move resources quickly to where they are most needed is affecting 
APS capacity to innovate and deliver outcomes for people and government. 
■ International experience that consolidating and harmonising mainstream 
IT platforms and associated processes can deliver significant cost savings 
and operational improvements (for example, Denmark’s Government IT 
Services Agency). 
■ The approaches of other jurisdictions experimenting with shared portals for 
citizen services, and finding that inter-operability between services can be 
more efficient than moving to single platforms.
■ Significant APS work underway to tackle these challenges, including reform 
initiatives under the Modernisation Fund, such as shared services, and the 
Data Integration Partnership for Australia. 
■ The conclusions and recommendations of Ahead of the Game on aligning 
processes and policies, including pay and conditions, over time.
What we are still exploring
■ Optimal arrangements to deliver a digitally enabled APS, including the 
important role of the Digital Transformation Agency.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Priority: Invest in capability  An integrated workforce strategy, building and maintaining 
and talent development 
service-wide skills to deliver and innovate.
■ The APS is a knowledge organisation and its most valuable asset is its people. 
What we have heard
■ “I joined for a job, stayed 
■ However, this asset can be taken for granted. Workforce planning can be 
because of the fulfilment 
fragmented and ad hoc, current capability and future capability needs are 
each day – started by 
unclear, and learning and development activities are not systematically linked 
chance, stayed by choice.” 
to agency objectives. 
APS employee workshop - 
■ There are concerns that the APS’s capability has diminished over time, that 
there is too much unused potential, that specific skills gaps have emerged, 
■ “Government as an 
and that the APS’s bench strength is not what it once was.
employer should be 
setting a gold standard 

■ There are also concerns that successful leadership is more often concerned 
example – not only meeting 
with responsiveness, and upward management, rather than the 
minimum standards but 
management and development of people. 
going above and beyond 
to strive for excel ence, 

■ The APS has long aspired to reflect the diversity of the broader community 
innovation and best 
but there is more to do. The barriers to entry for outsiders can be too high, 
practice as an employer.” 
which limits the range of skills, experience and insights across the service. 
Principal submission, 
Commonwealth Public 
■ If not addressed, these weaknesses will be exacerbated in the coming years 
Sector Union 
as the APS workforce is reshaped by technological and other trends. 
■ “We have many ambitious, 
The transformation opportunity 
capable people not 
■ Empowered people with the right capabilities will lift overall performance 
reaching their full potential 
of the APS, enabling the APS to best serve the government and the people 
(they are frustrated, bored).” 
of Australia. 
Submission - Anonymous
■ An APS-wide workforce strategy, led by the APSC, presents a good 
■ “I have observed a gradual 
opportunity to drive new approaches to long-term workforce planning  
erosion of specialist expertise. 
and capability development. This will help the APS attract and retain a 
This affects the ability of the 
diverse workforce in an increasingly competitive labour market.
APS to provide quality policy 
advice, regulatory oversight 

■ The approach to capability and talent development should be predicated 
and services.” Submission - 
on a sophisticated understanding of long-term workforce trends, including 
the opportunities flowing from technological advances. It should reflect a 
contemporary employee value proposition, centred on meaningful work, 
■ “We need greater diversity. 
inclusive workplaces, and opportunities for development and growth for  
We have to change the 
all employees. 
lens on how decisions 
are made. If we want a 

■  A transformed workforce will underpin stronger institutional capacity, 
fairer Australia, we need a 
including to undertake deep research, evaluation and data analytics. It 
public service that reflects 
will also be critical to integrated policy approaches that take a strategic 
Australia.” Public workshop 
view of Australia’s interests across economic, social, security and 
- Anonymous
international domains.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Exhibit 7: A selection of insights informing our thinking on the need to invest in capability and 
talent development
The APS does not put enough focus on coaching 
Capability reviews have highlighted gaps 
and development
in strategic capability
of those thinking of leaving their 
Assessment of strategic capability of agencies  
agency cite career-development
Number of agencies assessed at each capability level, n=22
-related reasons as the primary 
of APS employees said they 
were not coached by their 
40% line manager at work2
Just over 
of agencies reported having 
a formal talent management 
5 6 7
9 10
25% strategy in place3
Well placed
Strategic capability assessment composite score reflecting 
outcomes-focused, evidence-based, and collaboration
SOURCE: 1. APS Census, 2018. Note: This is the sum of 5 questions related to career 
SOURCE: APSC Capability Reviews, 2012-2015
development Q42.1-5; 2. APS Census, 2018; 3. State of the Service 2017-18, ASPC
The APS struggles to attract and retain diverse employ-
Capturing opportunities for improved services 
ees, particularly at senior levels
through automation will change the skills needed in 
the APS
Diversity by classification
% of classification by diversity group, 2018
% of Australian 
Estimated shift in skills in the APS 
APS 1 - 3
APS 4-6
EL 1-2 
2017-2030, %
Basic cognitive
Physical and
manual skills
Higher cognitive
Social and
other than 
emotional skills
English at 
SOURCE: 1. APSED, June 2018 [Indigenous rates exclude missing data]; 2. 2018 APS 
employee census [Q16, 18a]; 3. ABS population statistics, 2018; 4. ABS Disability, Ageing 
and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015 [Percentage in the labour force]; 5. 
SOURCE: APSC data, 2017; ATO data, 2018, McKinsey Global Institute 
ABS Census, 2016 [Percentage of those who speak a language other than English at 
workforce skills model 
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Invest in capability and 
What we think is needed
talent development 
■ Formal, focussed professionalisation of all APS roles delivered through a 
new ‘professions model’, drawing on international best practice. It should 
encompass delivery, regulation and policy, as well as key enabling functions 
including HR, procurement and data analysis.
functions across 
the service to 
■ Constituent professions should reflect the core, long-term capability needs, 
and encompass both generalists and specialists. All professions will be of 
deepen expertise 
equal status, and people will be encouraged to move between them where 
Today’s approach to capability 
it makes sense to do so.
development and career planning 
is not building the workforce the 
■ A Head of Professions – the APS Commissioner – to steward development 
APS increasingly needs or providing 
and implementation; and nurture the next generation of leaders from across 
employees with opportunities they 
the APS.
seek. A systematic, service-wide 
approach to lifting people capability 
■ Senior officers appointed to head each constituent profession, supported 
and making the most use of skills 
by the APSC, to develop competencies, standards and career pathways, and 
and experience will improve overall 
to guide recruitment priorities and approaches. Their responsibilities and 
performance of the APS for today 
accountabilities will be distinct from those of agency heads.
and the future.
■ A dedicated, sustainably resourced, APS Academy to source, design, deliver 
and/or leverage relevant capability-building initiatives to support the model. 
This should draw on best practice in each profession, as well as public, 
private, domestic and international experience. 
What is shaping our thinking 
■ Lack of career development and progression being the primary stated 
reason people leave the APS. 
■ The experience of other jurisdictions (for example, the UK and Singapore) 
and leading private sector organisations in developing specialist professional 
development tracks. 
■ Lessons from other jurisdictions that have established dedicated specialist 
learning academies (for example, Canada’s School of Public Service) and 
portfolio-specific initiatives such as DFAT’s Diplomatic Academy.
■ Concerns that the APS’s capability has diminished over time, that there 
is too much unused potential, that specific skills gaps have emerged (for 
example, data capabilities), and that the APS’s bench strength is not what it 
once was.
What we are still exploring
■ How best to empower heads of each profession with appropriate authority 
and influence without confusing accountabilities or disrupting agencies’ 
management of their workforce. 
■ How best to define professions and prioritise skills and roles most in need of 
capability uplift.
■ Opportunities to partner with existing institutions, for example ANZSOG, in 
developing an APS Academy proposal. 
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Invest in capability and 
What we think is needed
talent development 
■ Managers required to devote significant time developing and mentoring staff 
- and recognised for doing so - supported by effective leadership training, and 
reinforced through positive role modelling and clear accountabilities. 
■ Stronger incentives for managers to build and nurture capable and diverse 
accountable for 
teams and inclusive workplaces.
developing people 
■ Performance management practices and systems that support both 
and teams 
managers and staff – including: routine use of 360-degree feedback and 
views of external stakeholders; and linking appraisal outcomes with career 
It is important that APS managers 
opportunities and learning and development requirements. 
are incentivised to deliver outcomes 
in the long-term interests of 
■  These practices and systems should complement the new professions 
Australia, build capability of their 
model by recognising and rewarding a diverse range of skills and  
staff and agency, and are responsive 
career paths.
to immediate priorities. Formal 
recognition and celebration of great 
■ Performance management of the Senior Executive Service that better 
people managers will strengthen 
reflects its legislated APS-wide functions and emphasises collaboration 
APS capability and make it a more 
and cross-portfolio outcomes. This should be developed by the APS 
rewarding place to work.
Commissioner and implemented by agency heads. 
What is shaping our thinking 
■ International best practice, which highlights the importance of linking 
individual performance goals to organisational priorities, ensuring that 
managers provide continuous feedback, reward high performers, develop 
the broad middle, and move quickly on underperformers.
■ Concerns about a lack of focus on coaching and development. Less than 
half of APS employees consider SES make time to identify and develop 
talented people and just over a quarter of all agencies report having a 
formal talent management strategy.
■ Feedback that current career development and performance evaluation 
frameworks are not applied rigorously or consistently. Few APS employees 
consider their agency deals effectively with underperformance or 
recognises high performance.
What we are still exploring
■ Strategies to upskill managers to develop their employees effectively,  
and to prioritise this responsibility consistently.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Invest in capability and 
What we think is needed
talent development 
■ Strategically-targeted recruitment, based on an APS-wide workforce 
strategy and informed by the new professions model. The focus should 
be on building the right capabilities across the service and positioning 
agencies to make the best decisions about their respective workforces.
development and 
■ Annual external recruitment at EL and SES levels, modelled on the 
approach to graduates, to reduce barriers to entry from outside the APS.
mobility to build  
the workforce of  
■  Targeted mobility into, out of, and across the APS, particularly for 
the future 
potential leaders, and more access to career-defining opportunities for 
all employees (such as overseas postings and exchanges with state and 
The APS relies on outdated 
territory public services). 
approaches to recruitment, lacks 
consistency in inducting new 
■ Whole-of-service induction and ongoing initiatives to build common 
entrants, and does not routinely 
understanding of the APS’s role, purpose and culture. This should be 
identify and nurture talent and 
complemented by specific profession- and agency-based initiatives to 
future leaders. This is affecting 
build competencies and knowledge of key systems.
the composition of its workforce. 
Recruiting, nurturing, and 
What is shaping our thinking 
developing people with a diversity 
■ Evidence that both public- and private-sector organisations deliver better 
of backgrounds, skills and insights 
outcomes, with greater customer trust and confidence when they reflect the 
will help build capability and foster 
diversity – in identity and lived experience – of those they serve, and create 
greater creativity across the service.
the environment for those teams to flourish. 
■ The fact that graduate recruitment is currently the only time the APS 
systematically looks outside itself for recruitment. Ninety-two per cent of 
promotions in the APS in 2017 were internal to the agency, and over a 
quarter of external-hire SES leave within two years. 
■ Fifty-two per cent of APS employees agree that their agency provides 
opportunities for mobility within the agency, and just 32 per cent say their 
agency provides opportunities for mobility outside the agency. 
■ Evidence that the APS continues to struggle to attract and retain employees 
with diverse backgrounds, particularly at senior levels, and the sustained 
effort needed to achieve lasting change.
■ Promising Secretaries Board initiatives being implemented by the APSC to 
nurture leaders. 
What we are still exploring
■ Specific mechanisms to attract, retain and progress a genuinely inclusive 
and diverse workforce, including targets with hard accountability.
■ How to ensure mobility measures are carefully planned, create clear value 
for agencies and individuals, and do not undermine continuity or expertise 
within the affected agencies. 
■ How best to nurture high performers with demonstrated potential to be 
future leaders in the APS.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Invest in capability and 
What we think is needed
talent development 
■ Explicit acknowledgement – in agency planning, resourcing and  
reporting – of the importance of research, evaluation and data analytics  
in policy development and delivery.
21st century delivery, 
regulation and 
■ Additional and ongoing resourcing to: build in-house research capability; 
policy capabilities
sustain existing evidence-gathering tools and agencies; proficiently 
commission external research; and develop necessary digital talent and 
There is an opportunity to reprioritise 
skills, particularly in data analytics and emerging technologies.
time, effort and resources for deep 
research, analysis and evaluation, and 
■ Evaluation capability and practices embedded across the APS, supported 
big data and analytics, to underpin 
by central enabling advice and consistent methodologies, with specific 
APS capacity to provide the highest 
requirements to undertake evaluations of major measures. 
quality advice to governments. 
■ Experimentation with new models to challenge and disrupt traditional 
approaches to developing policy, regulation and services (for example, 
time-limited special purpose units). 
What is shaping our thinking 
■  The analysis and findings of the ANZSOG paper ‘Evaluation and learning 
from failure and success’ by Rob Bray, Matthew Gray and Paul ‘t Hart.
■ Public policy discourse on the role of evaluation in improving policy, and 
international experience in embedding evaluation. For example, the 
Government Accountability Office in the United States of America, and the 
What Works Network in the UK. 
■ Global experience in the use of data analytics in policy development, 
including to simulate the impacts of proposed policy changes.
■ Feedback that applied research functions across the APS have diminished 
over time.
What we are still exploring
■ How best to overcome the understandable reluctance to identify, accept 
and act upon potential findings flowing from evaluations.
■ Options for the design and use of the ‘professions model’ in these areas.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Invest in capability and 
What we think is needed
talent development 
■ Measures to ensure the APS overcomes cultural and structural silos, with 
people understanding other perspectives and disciplines, and looking to 
find shared solutions, without eroding healthy contestability. This should 
Policy advice that 
be developed through explicit professional and career development and 
integrates social, 
movement between portfolios.
economic, security 
■ New frameworks and structures to underpin high quality and whole-
and international 
of-government advice on cross-cutting social, economic and security 
issues. This could include a Secretaries Board committee to frame and 
commission work on such issues, and a cross-disciplinary Integrated 
The APS has placed longstanding 
Strategy Office in PM&C to coordinate policy advice to the Prime Minister 
emphasis on the need to take a 
and Cabinet. 
whole-of-government perspective  
to its work. This will become even 
■ Regular whole-of-government scenario exercises to identify key pressures 
more crucial in the years ahead.  
on international, social, economic and security matters, and possible 
The opportunity is for a system 
approaches and actions for government consideration. 
geared to consistently provide  
robust advice to government 
What is shaping our thinking 
that integrates and balances the 
■ The ongoing challenge for the public sector, domestically and globally, to 
emerging international, social, 
ensure silos do not undermine the quality of advice to governments. This 
economic and security pressures 
includes grappling with fragmentation and the cultural and behavioural 
facing Australia and Australians. 
change required to tackle cross-cutting issues. 
■ The experiences and lessons of multiple international jurisdictions (including 
the UK, Singapore and Finland) in establishing inter-disciplinary or future-
focused units, with dedicated resources and strong mandates.
■ Feedback that these models are more successful when they are empowered 
to consider a wide range of inter-disciplinary issues, rather than focusing on 
a specific policy challenge, such as national security.
■ The Intergenerational Report, which assesses the long-term sustainability 
of current government policies with a focus on demographics. 
■ The legislative requirement for secretaries to ensure their portfolio has a 
strong strategic policy capability that can consider complex, whole-of-
government issues.
What we are still exploring
■ Options to embed and resource integrated policy development functions, 
with the necessary capability, across the APS.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Priority: Develop  
Working openly and with integrity with partners, to support the 
stronger internal and 
delivery of outcomes for Australians. 
external partnerships
■ Key to the APS’s success in serving the government, the Parliament and the 
What we have heard
Australian public is the quality and depth of its relationships.
■ “Developing good policy 
involves negotiations 
■ There are concerns that these relationships can be undermined by the APS’s 
between the public service 
misplaced sense of primacy: as, for example, the exclusive provider of advice 
and stakeholders, and 
to government, curator of privileged information, keeper of rules, and owner 
the testing of ideas. Not 
of process.
everyone gets everything 
they want. In such 

■ At its worst, public engagement by the APS can be seen as a series of cynical, 
situations, trust and respect 
tick-a-box consultation processes with pre-determined outcomes. States and 
can be the difference 
territories also express dissatisfaction with the quality of some engagement.
between people remaining 
at the table or walking 

■ One of the APS’s most critical relationships – with ministers and their offices 
away.” Prof Ian Anderson
– could be strengthened, reflecting the APS’s important role as a trusted 
adviser to successive governments.
■ “The independence of the 
APS has been corroded 
The transformation opportunity 
over time by a blurring of 
■ Advances in technology and data analytics mean the APS is better placed 
the line between the role of 
than ever to routinely engage with its partners, and to deliver robust and 
the service and the role of 
timely advice, and quality services. 
elected politicians and their 
staff … creating a culture 

■ A fundamental rethink of its key relationships will move the APS to solving 
of defensiveness that 
problems in genuine partnership with ministers and their offices, civil 
impedes frank and fearless 
society, business, academia, other jurisdictions, and the Australian public.
evidence-based advice or 
learning from iterations 

■ The APS must approach these relationships openly and with humility. 
of policy development 
Like all effective partnerships, there will at times be robust debate and 
and implementation.” 
even disagreement – but the goals will be clear and shared, and the 
Submission - Anglicare
interactions respectful.
■ “Progress on society’s most 
■ More broadly, there should be an expectation that great agencies and 
complex problems will not 
public servants engage meaningfully and regularly outside the service 
occur without all levels of 
as part of core business. People at all levels must be empowered to live 
government and all sectors 
this approach.
of society collaborating 
more effectively… leveraging 

■ Embracing this approach will boost the APS’s ability to design and deliver 
government’s convening 
innovative, fit-for-purpose solutions, its position as a trusted adviser to 
power, and working cross-
successive governments, and its reputation as an organisation with the 
sectoral y.”  Submission - 
highest standards of integrity and ethics.
Save the Children Australia 
■  “Greater collaboration with 
industry to identify and 
solve problems (‘codesign’) 
can identify alternatives to 
legislation or improve the 
effectiveness of policies, 
reduce costs and avoid 
unintended consequences.”
Submission - Business 
Council of Australia
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Exhibit 8: A selection of insights informing our thinking on the need to develop stronger internal and 
external partnerships
There are clear opportunities for government agencies to 
These is significant room for improvement in how 
increase coordination and 
the APS delivers services
collaboration in delivery of services
Citizen satisfaction with APS agencies; 
Overall satisfaction (%)
People have up to
different logins for 
various government 
30 services1
ServiceNSW (benchmark)
National Disability
Insurance Scheme
IP Australia
Service NSW has been able to get 
35 government entities partnering together 
to provide seamless transactions2
Australian Taxation
SOURCE: 1 Australian Government Digital Transformation Strategy.  
SOURCE: Agency annual reports.  Note: each agency uses a slightly 
2 Service NSW Annual Report 2018
different questions to test satisfaction but these are broadly comparable
There is significant room to improve procurement 
Open data will improve outcomes but the 
outcomes across the APS
Australian Government is not sufficiently trusted
of government expenditure 
% of respondents who ‘agree’ and ‘strongly agree’ 
on procured goods and 
$47.4Bn  services in 2016–171
The Australian government …
… could respond 
quickly and effectively 
to a data breach
of contracts accounted for almost 
three-quarters of the total value of 
APS contracts in 2017-20182
… has the ability to 
prevent data being 
hacked or leaked
… can be trusted 
Estimated savings from application of 
to use data 
best practice procurement disciplines, 
drawing on experience of 
governments worldwide3
… is open and honest 
about how data is 
collected, used and shared
SOURCE: 1. Australian Government Procurement Contract Reporting, ANAO, 2017; 
2 Janine O’Flynn and Gary L. Sturgess (2019) “2030 and Beyond: Getting the work 
of government done”  3 McKinsey (2017), “Government Productivity: unlocking the 
SOURCE: Public attitudes towards data governance in Australia, ANU, 2018
$3.5 trillion opportunity” 
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Develop stronger internal 
What we think is needed
and external partnerships
■ A service-wide ambition to ensure people can access seamless and 
personalised services and support irrespective of which agency, portfolio 
and ultimately government is responsible for its provision. 
Seamless services 
and local solutions 
■ Close links between Commonwealth service providers (for example, 
designed and  
social, health, employment, immigration and education) and greater 
collaboration with states and territories on joined up service delivery. 
delivered with 
states, territories 
■ New ways of working with families, communities, non-government 
and other partners 
providers and other partners to enable better social outcomes – including 
through wrap-around case management and place-based approaches.
The APS is not best-placed to 
meet growing expectations for 
■ Connected digital platforms, with the requisite privacy protections, to 
government services to be delivered 
streamline services and focus them where they are most needed.
in an integrated and individualised 
fashion. Technological advances, 
■ Agencies empowered and accountable for continuous improvement of 
and a renewed focus on outcomes 
customer satisfaction with key government services and support. 
and impacts rather than inputs and 
process, present an opportunity to 
What is shaping our thinking 
rethink how the APS designs and 
■ The analysis and findings of ANZSOG papers ‘Delivering local solutions’ 
delivers government services.
by Catherine Althaus and Carmel McGregor and ‘Working with other 
jurisdictions’ by Ben Rimmer, Cheryl Saunders and Michael Crommelin.
■ The Government’s Digital Transformation Strategy, especially the priority 
that “government is easy to deal with by 2025”.
■ Evidence from other jurisdictions that streamlining the user’s end-to-end 
journey, through human-centred design and digitisation, significantly 
improves experience while reducing costs.
■ The fact that Australia’s most pressing public policy challenges increasingly 
manifest at the boundaries of Commonwealth and state responsibilities, in 
areas such as health, education, environment and energy. 
■ Reflections on how public servants from all levels of government work 
together in emergencies or crises, placing local communities at the centre, 
with those responsible liberated to challenge traditional processes, frame 
problems and identity solutions cooperatively, and take calculated risks. 
What we are still exploring
■ Options for structural change to drive coordination and alignment of 
service delivery. 
■ Potential to pilot joint Commonwealth and state delivery arrangements for 
particular services and/or regions.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Develop stronger internal 
What we think is needed
and external partnerships
■ Regular release of, and transparency around, data, analysis, research and 
evaluations, driven by an ongoing commitment to create greater  
public value.
An open APS, 
accountable for 
■ Formal commitments to work in partnership with others (for example, civil 
sharing information 
society and business) on core policy, delivery and regulatory work – with all 
parties publicly accountable for adhering to those commitments.
and engaging widely 
The APS is too often perceived by 
■ Proactive approaches to engaging with Australians on their views and 
stakeholders to be a closed book, 
expectations of the APS, including through regular citizen surveys.
reflecting a risk averse culture, 
reluctance to provide information 
What is shaping our thinking 
and sometimes tokenistic approaches 
■ Initiatives underway as part of Australia’s ‘Open Government National 
to consultation. Sharing more of its 
Action Plan’.
work with partners, and genuinely 
listening to and acting on their 
■ Steps in Australia and elsewhere to increase openness and engagement. 
insights, will help deliver better 
For example, the Victorian framework for planning and implementing 
outcomes and earn public trust.
effective public participation exercises, and New Zealand’s decision to 
proactively release some traditionally confidential material.
■ Evidence that technology has lowered barriers to understanding what 
people want and expect from government and their satisfaction with 
public services. For example, Indonesia allows citizens to report on 
services in real-time by SMS, while other countries use citizen surveys to 
understand what drives public trust and satisfaction over time. 
■ The regular national survey of citizen experiences and satisfaction with the 
APS and the services it delivers, being undertaken by PM&C.
What we are still exploring
■ The extent to which the Freedom of Information regime is helping the  
APS balance openness with the importance of providing frank and  
fearless advice to government.
■ Suitable mechanisms to authorise and empower senior APS officers to 
lead by example in setting an ‘openness by default’ culture.  
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Develop stronger internal 
What we think is needed
and external partnerships
■ Policies that, when taken together, empower agencies to achieve long-
term positive outcomes and value for money through procurement 
activities, and holds them accountable for this, as well as maintaining  
Strategic, service-
fiscal discipline and strong compliance mechanisms.
wide approaches 
to procurement to 
■ Centres of excellence to: aggregate and provide transparency on the 
costs and benefits of procurement activities; apply data analytics to this 
deliver better value 
information and identify potential whole-of-service efficiencies; and 
and outcomes for 
develop and drive new approaches to procurement.
■ Specialist capability to: project demand for procured goods and 
The APS invests significantly in  
services; make strategic decisions about when to procure goods and 
goods and services from private  
services externally and when to develop them in-house; shape supplier 
and not-for-profit providers and  
markets to drive innovation; and evaluate procurement activities against 
this is unlikely to change in the 
intended outcomes.
future. It is therefore critical the  
APS has the knowledge and skills  
■ Use of the ‘professions model’ to develop this capability.
to expertly design, oversee 
and manage its contractual 
What is shaping our thinking 
arrangements with integrity. 
■ The analysis and findings of the ANZSOG papers ‘2030 and Beyond: 
Getting the Business of Government Done’ by Janine O’Flynn and  
Gary L. Sturgess and ‘The APS Integrity Framework’ by Nikolas Kirby  
and Simone Webbe.
■ The Commonwealth Procurement Rules and the new Centre of 
Procurement Excellence.
■ Key characteristics of success in use of third parties to efficiently and 
effectively deliver goods and services on behalf of the APS. For example, 
knowledge transfer requirements and implications for long-term  
in-house capability. 
■ Feedback on implications from the use of consultants, contract labour, and 
outsourcing arrangements for the APS’s long-term capability. 
■ The experience of other jurisdictions, such as the UK, Canada, New Zealand 
and NSW, in developing ‘strategic commissioning’ frameworks.
■ Experience to date with commissioning approaches in parts of the APS, 
including the Department of Defence’s ‘independent contestability’ function, 
and the Digital Transformation Agency’s ‘ask the marketplace’ initiative. 
What we are still exploring
■ How best to ensure the APS’s high standards of ethics and integrity are 
reflected in arrangements with external providers; including protocols for 
former public servants.
■ How best to integrate current thinking around the application and benefits 
of a strategic commissioning framework.
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Develop stronger internal 
What we think is needed
and external partnerships
■ Measures to provide greater access for ministers to subject matter and 
public administration expertise, and to deepen APS understanding of 
ministers’ needs and expectations. This could include new positions for 
Ministers supported 
senior public servants in ministerial offices and a higher proportion of 
through easier 
ministerial policy staff with public sector experience.
access to APS 
■ Deployment of technological platforms to enable ministers to access up-to-
expertise and 
date advice from the APS at any time and from anywhere in the world.
insights and  
formal recognition 
■ Practical induction, ongoing guidance and training in public administration 
and how to get the best out of the APS for ministers and other 
of distinct role of 
parliamentarians, and their staff.
ministerial advisors 
The APS’s critical relationship with 
■ Formal recognition of the distinct and important role of ministerial advisors, 
the executive and the Parliament 
including clarity of role (both in relation to ministers and public servants) 
has evolved, but without a 
and accountability.
corresponding evolution in some 
of the conventions and practices 
What is shaping our thinking 
surrounding this relationship. There 
■ The analysis and findings of the ANZSOG paper ‘The APS’ relationship with 
is untapped opportunity to strengthen 
Ministers and their offices’ by Anne Tiernan and Ian Holland.
the relationship, including through 
a commonly agreed understanding 
■ Consistent feedback both from ministers and APS leaders that the nature 
of respective roles, clarifying the 
and quality of relationships between the government and the APS affects 
important role of ministerial advisors, 
the quality of public administration and long-term public policy outcomes.
and making it easier for ministers to 
access APS expertise and insights.
■ The findings of reports (for example, ‘Learning from Failure’) highlighting 
the impact of APS-executive relationships on effective program delivery, risk 
identification and management. 
■ The current ‘Statement of Standards for Ministerial Staff’, which sets out 
performance expectations.
What we are still exploring
■ Administrative options to support senior APS officers in serving meaningfully 
and apolitically in ministerial offices.
■ Mechanisms to ensure accountability of ministerial staff, similar to that 
applied to public servants, and international approaches (for example, 
Canada and New Zealand).
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
The panel’s emphasis on the importance of relationships recognises that 
the APS cannot meet its purpose of serving all Australians unless it works 
openly and with integrity with partners across the community.
Nowhere is this truer than in supporting the outcomes and aspirations of 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been calling for decades 
for the APS to genuinely partner with them to improve outcomes. The 
Coombs review proposed that Aboriginal communities be assisted to 
develop institutions, giving them real power for the “substantially 
independent conduct of chosen aspects of their own affairs”.
But, despite the efforts of those involved, this has not delivered 
substantively better outcomes across the board, nor genuine 
empowerment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  
In the first 50 years of Commonwealth administration (1967 to 2017)  
there were at least 11 different public administration structures (with  
ten of these in the past 30 years).
If pursued, the priorities for change outlined in this report provide an 
opportunity for the APS to work profoundly differently with Aboriginal and 
Torres Strait Islander peoples. Creating a genuine partnership would be 
fundamentally transformative.
Such a partnership needs to operate at different levels. Locally, it will 
often mean working collectively on community-led or place-based 
initiatives. This will require the APS to work with much greater humility 
and to focus on building the strength and impact of Aboriginal and 
Torres Strait Islander organisations.
Nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be able to 
participate meaningfully in matters affecting them. The panel believes this 
simple proposition should be a guiding principle for the APS. Achieving 
it will require supporting mechanisms and institutions that provide for 
national participation and representation. The panel notes the 2018 Special 
Gathering on Closing the Gap – which brought together Aboriginal and 
Torres Strait Islander leaders and the first ministers from states, territories 
and the Commonwealth – reflects the spirit of this principle in action. 
It is also critical that the APS supports and develops its Aboriginal and 
Torres Strait Islander employees, including fostering the development of 
senior leaders across the service.
The panel will be seeking to hear more voices from Aboriginal and 
Torres Strait Islander people, including from within the service, over 
the coming months.
Independent Review of the APS

Next steps

Independent Review of the APS
How to get 
We know that testing ideas makes them better. So, please go to our website 
and provide your feedback on our proposed initiatives and have your say by 
2 May 2019. In particular, we want to know:
■ How can we strengthen each proposal?
■ What are we missing?
■ How do we ensure lasting change?
We will be developing these proposals in coming months, taking into 
account your feedback to ensure that we arrive at the best answers – robust, 
implementable recommendations that achieve the desired outcomes for 
the APS. 
As noted above, we have taken many lessons from previous reviews into the APS 
and know that implementation is critical. We are committed to ensuring we are 
just as clear on what needs to happen as we are on making it happen and will 
spend the coming months refining our thinking on what is required to actually 
deliver lasting change.
We will report to the Prime Minister mid-year. We want to hear your input 
and insights. So, please, visit our website, challenge our assumptions, test 
our thinking, and have your say.
Independent Review of the APS


Independent Review of the APS
Appendix 1: Research papers prepared by ANZSOG
To help inform the review, we commissioned research papers from leading 
academics and practitioners through the Australia and New Zealand School of 
Government (ANZSOG). These provide an additional independent perspective 
on various aspects of public sector reform. They are intended to support and 
enrich public discussion and debate.
The major topics reflect areas with a rich academic foundation, where we felt it 
was particularly important to hear different external perspectives. 
■ Three papers focus on APS relationships with key partners: ministers 
and their offices, other jurisdictions, and communities (through delivering 
local solutions). 
■ A further paper considers another aspect of relationships – namely, integrity.
■ The final two papers explore core aspects of APS work: commissioning and 
contracting, and evaluations of performance.
The papers do not reflect our views or foreshadow the review’s recommendations. 
But they are being considered carefully alongside a wealth of other material, 
new and existing, on key aspects of public sector reform, as well as the 
outcomes and insights of our engagement across the APS and beyond.
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Independent Review of the APS
Appendix 2: Key reports on the APS 2003-2018
Focus of Review
Australia 2030: Prosperity 
Whole-of-economy strategy to 
Bill Ferris AC (Chair), Dr Alan 
through innovation
generate and capture more benefits  Finkel AO (Deputy Chair), Dr 
from innovation for all Australians
Bronte Adams AM, Dr Michele 
Allan, Paul Bassat, Dr Rufus Black, 
Maile Carnegie, Beth Comstock, 
Scott Farquhar, Prof Bronwyn 
Harch, Dr Marlene Kanga AM, 
Daniel Petre AO, Dr Christopher 
Roberts AO, Saul Singer, Dr 
Heather Smith PSM (Ex Officio)
Contestability Review into the 
An assessment of which components  Phase One: Department of 
Provi-sion of Policy Advice to 
of the policy process could be made  Health and Department of 
Government (not yet publicly 
more contestable or efficient
Industry and Science
Phase two: Department of 
Final report of the ICT 
Making it easier and cheaper for 
 ICT Procurement Task-force
Procurement Taskforce 
ICT businesses to contract with 
government and deliver better 
government services at a lower cost
Shifting the Dial: 5 Year 
Whole-of-economy advice on where  Productivity Commission
Productivity Review
our priorities should lie if we are to 
enhance national welfare over the 
medium term 
Data Availability and Use, Inquiry  2017
Guidance on the benefits of greater 
Productivity Commission
data use, and ways that governments 
might engage with the community to 
better understand the costs, risks, and 
benefits associated with data sharing 
and use
Digital disruption: what do 
The role of government in the face of  Productivity Commission
governments need to do?
potentially disruptive technological 
Independent Review of Whole-of- 2015
Assess the utility and impact of 
Barbara Belcher
Government Internal Regulation 
government regulations
(‘Belcher Red Tape Review’)
Learning from Failure: why large  2015
Government processes for large 
Prof Peter Shergold AC
government policy initiatives 
public programs and projects, 
have gone so badly wrong in 
following the Royal Commission into 
the past and how the chances 
the Home Insulation Program
of success in the future can be 
improved (‘the Shergold Report’)
Unlocking potential, Australian 
Current practices around recruitment,  Sandra McPhee AM
Public Service Workforce 
employee mobility and separations, 
Management Contestability 
specifically in the context of 
Independent Review of the APS

Independent Review of the APS
Focus of Review
Towards Responsible 
Review and report on the 
Tony Shepherd AO (Chair), Dr 
Government: The Report of the 
performance, functions and roles of 
Peter Boxall AO, Tony Cole AO, 
National Commission of Audit
the Commonwealth government
Robert Fisher AM, the Hon 
Amanda Vanstone
Is Less More? Towards Better 
Review the Commonwealth’s 
Department of Finance
Commonwealth Performance 
financial framework and its 
(CFAR discussion paper)
contribution to efficient and effective 
use of public resources.
Sharpening the Focus: A 
Review the Commonwealth’s 
Department of Finance
Framework for Improving 
financial framework and its 
Commonwealth Performance 
contribution to efficient and effective 
(CFAR position paper)
use of public resources
Review of the Measures of 
Promoting efficiency in government  Department of Finance
Agency Efficiency
and assessing suitable alternatives to 
the Efficiency Dividend
Review of the Senior Executive 
Review the size and growth of the 
Roger Beale AO
Service: Report to the Special 
Senior Executive Service
Minister of State for the Public 
Service and Integrity (‘Beale 
Ahead of the Game: Blueprint 
Review the Commonwealth’s 
Terry Moran AO (Chair), Chris 
for the Reform of Australian 
administration and develop a 
Blake, Prof Glyn Davis AC, Jo 
Government Administration
blueprint for reform
Evans, Dr Ken Henry AC, Robyn 
Kruk AM, Steve Sedgwick, Ann 
Sherry AO, Nick Warner PSM, 
Professor Patrick Weller AO
Engage: Getting on with 
How the internet and tools of ‘Web 
Nicholas Gruen (Chair), Ann 
Government 2.0 (Government 
2.0’ can improve collaboration and 
Steward (Deputy Chair), Glenn 
2.0 Taskforce)
innovation both within government,  Archer, Sebastian Chan, Adrian 
and between government and the 
Cunningham, Prof Brian 
general community
Fitzgerald, Mia Garlick, Peter 
Harper, Lisa Harvey, Martin 
Hoffman, Pip Marlow, Alan 
Noble, Ian Reinecke, David 
Solomon, Martin Stewart-Weeks
Review of the Australian 
Efficiency and effectiveness of 
Sir Peter Gershon CBE FREng
Government’s Use of Information 
the government’s use of ICT and 
and Communication Technology 
the institutional arrangements to 
(‘Gershon Review’)
maximize returns to ICT investments
Review of the Corporate 
The corporate governance of statutory  John Uhrig
Governance of Statutory 
authorities and their relationships 
Authorities and Office Holders 
with the relevant Minister, the 
(‘Uhrig Review’)
Parliament, the public and business.
Independent Review of the APS