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Government’s Merit and Transparency policy 
Published 
  
11 December 2020 
Contents 
  Introduction 
  Part one: Policy 
  Part two: Guidelines 
  Appendix 
Introduction 
In 2008, the Australian Government introduced a policy implementing transparent and merit-based 
assessment in the selection of most Australian Public Service (APS) agency heads and other statutory 
office holders working in, or in conjunction with, APS agencies. 
Positions and types of positions which are excluded from the requirements of this policy are set out 
at part 1.2 of the policy (Exclusions) and in more detail here. All other current and future APS agency 
head roles, full time APS statutory offices and APS statutory offices where there are both full-time 
and part time offices with the same title, are covered by the policy. 
The policy also ensures that existing office holders are given sufficient notice as to whether or not 
they will be reappointed and that vacancies will be advertised well in advance of them falling due. 
The merit selection processes outlined in this policy and guidelines became fully effective on 1 July 
2008 having been progressively implemented since 5 February 2008. 
Part one: Policy 
1.1 Summary 
The policy applies to APS agency heads—other than departmental Secretaries and their 
equivalents—and other statutory offices working in, or in conjunction with, APS agencies, unless 
specifically excluded (see section 1.2). The policy is summarised as follows: 
  The Minister will advise incumbents, in writing, at least four months before the expiry of 
their appointment whether it is intended to reappoint them, not reappoint them, or to 
advertise the position to test the field. 
  A merit-based and transparent process will apply for filling vacancies, with the following 
features: 
o  oversight of the advertising process and assessment of applicants’ claims are to be 
undertaken by the Secretary and the Public Service Commissioner (or their 
representatives) 
o  vacancies will be advertised at a minimum on the APSjobs website and in the 
national press* 

o  selections will be made against a core set of selection criteria, supplemented by 
additional criteria agreed to by the Minister and Secretary 
o  a report endorsed by the Public Service Commissioner, will be provided by the 
Secretary to the Minister recommending shortlisted candidates. 
  Where the Minister wishes to appoint someone not recommended by the panel, the 
Minister will need to write to the Prime Minister setting out reasons. 
  Where legislation provides for specific processes for appointments, those provisions will 
take precedence to the extent of any inconsistency with this policy. 
  Where the appointment of an agency head is made by a board, the chair of the board will 
have the responsibilities set out above, in lieu of the Secretary and Minister. 
  All appointments are to be made for a period of five years unless individual appointees 
advise in writing that they are seeking a shorter period, or the relevant legislation stipulates 
a different period, or other special circumstances arise justifying a short term. 
  All costs associated with filling the vacancy, such as advertising, will be borne by the agency 
where the vacancy occurs or as otherwise determined by the Secretary. 
* Refer to Clause 2.6.2 for further detail on advertising 
1.2 Exclusions 
Secretary and Secretary-equivalent appointments (namely, the Public Service Commissioner, the 
Commissioner of Taxation, the Auditor-General, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian 
Customs Service and the Australian Statistician) are excluded from this policy. 
Part-time statutory offices are also excluded, other than APS agency heads and APS statutory offices 
where there are both full-time and part-time offices with the same title. 
Appointees who are also required to be APS employees (i.e. where legislation requires that a 
statutory office must be held by an APS employee) are excluded as they are already subject to merit-
based selection under the Public Service Act 1999. However, the policy does apply to an APS 
employee who applies for a statutory appointment and would need to resign or be granted leave 
without pay to take up the appointment if successful. 
The following are also excluded from the policy: 
  dual appointments where the appointee is already a full-time office holder, as an office 
holder should only need to be selected once 
  appointments to an elected office, as these appointments allow the relevant community an 
opportunity to have a say in the selection of the office holder (for example, the Chairperson 
of the Torres Strait Regional Authority) 
  appointments to the Australian Defence Force 
  the Registrars of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and National Native Title Tribunal 
(NNTT), the chief executive officers of the federal courts, Federal Court of Australia 
assessors, and the President of the NNTT 

  the Administrators of the Northern Territory, Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and 
Norfolk Island 
  other offices where the Prime Minister (or the Minister authorised to act on his or her 
behalf) grants an exemption for: 
1.  a particular appointee in special circumstances, or 
2.  an office, on an ongoing basis, where it is inappropriate for the process to apply. 
Where short term acting appointments are to be made (for example pending the commencement of 
a full term appointee or during the absence of the usual office holder), the processes prescribed in 
the relevant legislation should be followed. Full term appointments will still need to comply with the 
merit selection processes outlined in this policy and guidelines. 
The policy and guidelines do not cover non-APS agencies—they apply to agencies that operate under 
the Public Service Act 1999. 
Part two: Guidelines 
2.1 Expiry of existing appointments 
Each Secretary is responsible for keeping a record of all statutory appointments in his or her 
portfolio. The Secretary will notify the relevant Minister or Ministers, in writing, of an upcoming 
expiry of an appointment six months before the expiry date1. 
The Secretary will seek the Minister’s advice on whether: 
  the incumbent is to be offered reappointment (if allowed by legislation), or 
  the incumbent is not to be reappointed, or 
  the Minister wishes to test the field through advertising the position (which may or may not 
result in the incumbent being reappointed). 
The Secretary’s notification to the Minister must be copied to the Public Service Commissioner (the 
Commissioner). 
Where the Minister decides to advertise the job rather than reappoint the incumbent, an open and 
merit-based selection process must apply. The Secretary will consult with the Minister on details 
such as the scope of advertising and selection criteria. However, there are minimum requirements 
detailed in sections 2.6.1 and 2.6.2 below. 
The Minister is responsible for advising the incumbent in writing at least four months before the 
expiry of their appointment that he or she will: 
  be reappointed, or 
  not be reappointed, or 
  not be reappointed because the Minister wishes to test the field of potential candidates but 
he or she is able to apply (if reappointment is allowed by legislation). 
The Secretary must advise the Commissioner of the Minister’s decision. 
2.2 Reappointments 

Where the incumbent is to be reappointed a selection process is not required. Instead, the Minister 
will need to follow the current appointments process outlined in the Cabinet Handbook2, including 
writing to the Prime Minister seeking his or her, or at his or her discretion, the Cabinet’s approval of 
the appointment. If the reappointment is agreed, appointment documentation should be prepared 
for the appropriate body with the power to make the appointment (for example, the Governor-
General or the agency’s board). 
2.3 Secretary’s role 
The Secretary is responsible for overseeing the selection process for agency heads and statutory 
office holders. This involves: 
  keeping a record of all statutory appointments in their portfolio 
  six months before the expiry of each appointment, seeking the Minister’s advice, in writing, 
of their decision whether to reappoint the incumbent or advertise the position 
  consulting with the Minister on details such as the scope of advertising and selection criteria 
  chairing the assessment panel, or delegating this role if appropriate 
  selecting panel members (other than the Commissioner) 
  together with the panel, assessing applicants’ claims against selection criteria 
  providing a selection report for endorsement by the Commissioner prior to it being 
submitted to the Minister 
  providing a report to the Minister recommending a shortlist of suitable candidates. 
While the Secretary’s report to the Minister must be consistent with the report endorsed by the 
Commissioner, the Secretary will determine the level of detail required by the Minister. 
Secretaries need to advise the Commissioner of the following information relating to the 
appointment or reappointment: 
  upcoming expiry date 
  decisions to reappoint the incumbent or advertise upcoming or vacant positions 
  date finalised through Cabinet, expected commencement date, or term of any 
reappointment. 
2.4 Public Service Commissioner’s role 
The primary role of the Commissioner is to ensure that assessment of candidates is based on merit. 
The Commissioner (or his or her representative) is in all respects a full member of the assessment 
panel and therefore plays an active role in the process. He or she needs to be involved in all aspects 
of the selection exercise including shortlisting of applicants, with sufficient time allowed for this to 
occur. 
Any costs associated with the role of the Commissioner or his or her representative, such as travel, 
accommodation etc, will generally be borne by the relevant agency. 
The Commissioner will be involved during the following steps of the process: 

  participating in the assessment panel or nominating a representative to participate in his or 
her place3 
  where the Commissioner did not participate as an assessment panel member, the 
Commissioner’s endorsement of the report must be obtained prior to the Secretary 
reporting to the Minister. 
  where the Commissioner did participate as an assessment panel member, the 
Commissioner’s signing of the report serves as the endorsement. 
The Commissioner may update the core selection criteria, from time to time, in consultation with 
Secretaries—see section 2.6.1 below. 
2.5 Minister’s role 
The Minister remains responsible for making the final recommendation to the Prime Minister. The 
Minister is responsible for: 
  advising the Secretary of whether it is intended to reappoint the incumbent or advertise the 
position 
  advising the incumbent, in writing, at least four months before the expiry of their 
appointment whether it is intended to reappoint them, not reappoint them, or to advertise 
the position 
  advising the Secretary of his or her views on the scope of advertising and any additional 
selection criteria 
  contacting and encouraging particular candidates to apply if he or she wishes 
  considering the recommendations of the Secretary following the completion of a selection 
exercise 
  meeting with one or more of the recommended candidates, or consulting more widely with 
colleagues, the assessment panel or others, prior to making a final decision, if he or she 
wishes. 
Once the Minister has made a decision, the Minister will need to follow the normal appointment 
processes outlined in the Cabinet Handbook, including writing to the Prime Minister recommending 
the appointment. The usual process for appointments, including the Governor-General’s approval 
where specified in legislation, should be followed. 
If the Minister considers special circumstances exist where a full selection process is inappropriate 
(see section 2.6.6), he or she must write to the Prime Minister seeking approval to fill the position 
without conducting a full selection process. This letter should be copied to the Commissioner. 
Where the Minister decides not to appoint a candidate recommended by the assessment panel, the 
Minister must write to the Prime Minister outlining the reasons for this decision. These reasons will 
be included in Cabinet documentation where the Minister’s proposed appointment requires Cabinet 
approval. 
For agency heads and statutory offices in the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio, the Minister’s 
role as described in this section may be undertaken by the Cabinet Secretary or Parliamentary 
Secretary. 

2.6 Merit-based selection 
For the purpose of these guidelines, merit-based selection is as follows, based on that applying to 
APS promotions and engagements: 
  an assessment is made of the relative suitability of the candidates for the duties, using a 
competitive selection process, and 
  the assessment is based on the relationship between the candidates’ work-related qualities 
and the work-related qualities genuinely required for the duties, and 
  the assessment focuses on the relative capacity of the candidates to achieve outcomes 
related to the duties, and 
  the assessment is the primary consideration in making the decision. 
Examples of work-related qualities that may be taken into account in making an assessment include: 
  skills and abilities 
  qualifications, training and competencies 
  standard of work performance 
  capacity to produce outcomes from effective performance at the level required 
  relevant personal qualities 
  demonstrated potential for further development 
  ability to contribute to team performance. 
2.6.1 Selection criteria 
Selection for agency heads and statutory office holders should be made against a set of selection 
criteria, which are outlined below. As particular vacancies may have job-specific elements not 
covered within a standard set of criteria, additional criteria may be agreed by the Secretary and the 
Minister. A small number of positions may need quite different criteria, which may be approved by 
the Secretary following consultation with the Minister. 
Agency head selection criteria 
The core criteria for agency head positions are as follows (the italicised points are capabilities that 
illustrate how the criteria relate to on-the-job performance4): 
  Demonstrates high level leadership and vision 
o  sets a strategic vision and inspires others to achieve this 
o  innovative in dealing with issues 
o  articulates a clear direction for their organisation 
  Manages large and/or complex operations 
o  achieves results within the context of organisational and/or Government policy 
o  strong people management skills 

o  strong financial management, ensuring efficient, effective and ethical use of 
resources 
o  understanding of and commitment to quality organisational governance 
  Works with others to meet objectives 
o  operates collaboratively with others to meet organisational objectives 
o  cultivates productive relationships 
o  listens to people and values different perspectives 
  High level of judgement 
  Demonstrates a high standard of professional and personal integrity and capacity to 
promote these in an organisation. 
The Commissioner may update the core selection criteria, from time to time, in consultation with 
Secretaries. 
Statutory office holder selection criteria 
For most non-agency head office holders, the Senior Executive Service (SES) core criteria may suffice. 
These criteria are: 
  Shapes strategic thinking 
  Achieves results 
  Exemplifies personal drive and integrity 
  Cultivates productive working relationships 
  Communicates with influence. 
These criteria, with a range of capabilities relevant to them, are set out on the Commission’s 
website. 
2.6.2 Advertising 
Vacancies must be notified at a minimum on the APSjobs website at www.apsjobs.gov.au- external 
site 
and externally. 
The Merit and Transparency policy as made in 2008 indicates that for an agency head or statutory 
office holder vacancy where an open selection process is to be undertaken, the vacancy must be 
advertised in APS jobs and in the national media. Such advertising must also be made in accordance 
with Non-Campaign Recruitment Advertising Policy which applies to all Financial Management and 
Accountability Act 1997 (FMA) Agencies. 
If the Secretary decides not to approve an exemption from the NCRA Policy authorising the vacancy 
being advertised in major daily newspapers, then the vacancy must still be advertised externally, for 
instance on an appropriate recruitment website or websites. Advice about internet recruitment 
advertising strategies is available from Adcorp Australia Limited, the Commonwealth’s Master Media 
Agency for Placement of Non-Campaign Advertising. 

The Secretary may wish to engage an executive search firm to ensure the field of applicants is as 
strong as possible, although the Secretary, Commissioner and Minister still retain their 
responsibilities as outlined in these guidelines. Where search firms are used, all assessment panel 
members must be kept informed of all aspects of the process. 
2.6.3 Assessment panel 
An assessment panel will consider the claims of all applicants against the selection criteria. At a 
minimum, the assessment panel will consist of: 
  the Secretary and 
  the Commissioner. 
Both the Secretary and Commissioner may choose representatives to participate in the panel. The 
Secretary, however, is still responsible for overseeing the process and providing recommendations 
to the Minister, and the Commissioner must still endorse the process. 
The Secretary, having regard to any legislative provisions, will decide if one or more additional panel 
members are required to: 
  maintain gender balance 
  provide specialist expertise 
  represent the relevant advisory board, state/territory government, etc. 
Just as Ministers’ staff cannot participate in the selection process for APS positions (including SES 
positions), they cannot sit on these panels. 
Where legislation contains specific processes for appointments, those processes will take 
precedence to the extent of any inconsistency with this policy (see section 2.10). 
All members of the assessment panel, including the Secretary and Commissioner (or their 
representatives) need to participate in the shortlisting of applicants. 
2.6.4 Methods of assessment 
Secretaries, in their role overseeing the assessment process, are responsible for establishing the 
means used to assess applicants. This would typically involve assessing written applications, 
conducting formal interviews and obtaining referee reports. 
It may be appropriate to consult other people, for example, colleagues, board members, state or 
territory ministers or officials, or the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 
on a confidential basis. 
Additional or alternative means of assessment are also available, including assessment centre 
methodologies, structured application forms, self-selection tools and occupational testing. All 
assessment processes must be overseen by the assessment panel. 
The Secretary will also need to decide the level of pre-appointment checks to be undertaken (for 
example, declarations of private interests or security clearances). 
2.6.5 Selection report 

At the conclusion of the selection process, a report is to be prepared containing an assessment of 
the relative suitability of candidates and provided by the Secretary to the Commissioner for 
endorsement. 
If neither the Commissioner nor Deputy Commissioner participated on the assessment panel 
directly, the Commissioner’s representative on the panel will provide separate certification to the 
Commissioner confirming that the selection process has been based on merit, and that advertising 
and panel composition requirements have been met. 
Regardless of who chairs the assessment panel, the Secretary provides a final report to the Minister 
at the conclusion of the assessment recommending a shortlist of suitable candidates for the 
Minister’s consideration. 
There is no requirement to rank candidates, although the panel is encouraged to do so where there 
is a clear order of merit or an outstanding candidate. 
Where the Minister endorses an order of merit or a shortlist of candidates, he or she may decide to 
use the list to recommend appointments to identical vacancies (for example where there are 
multiple members of a Tribunal) occurring within a reasonable period during which the field of 
potential candidates is unlikely to have changed. This does not apply to agency head vacancies. 
While the Secretary’s report to the Minister must be consistent with the report endorsed by the 
Commissioner, the Secretary will determine the level of detail required by the Minister. 
2.6.6 Circumstances not requiring full selection process 
Some circumstances may arise where the Minister does not wish to advertise a vacancy and conduct 
a full selection process. The most common circumstance where this could arise is where there is 
another office holder at a similar level that the Prime Minister considers should be appointed to the 
position. It is common practice for agency heads to be appointed to various positions throughout 
their career, and this is regarded as a reasonable alternative option. 
Special circumstances where a Minister may consider a full selection process is inappropriate may 
include: 
  an urgent requirement to fill a position 
  the availability of an eminent person, where there would be little value in conducting a 
selection process. 
The Minister must request the Prime Minister’s approval to fill a position without conducting a full 
selection process. 
2.7 Duration of appointment 
All appointments are to be made for a period of five years, unless: 
  individual appointees advise in writing that a shorter period is sought, or 
  the relevant legislation stipulates a different period, or 
  other special circumstances arise justifying a short term. 
2.8 Appointments by a board 

Where the appointment of an agency head or other statutory office holder is made by a board, the 
chair of the board will have certain responsibilities in lieu of the Secretary and Minister as detailed 
above. 
Where a board wishes to appoint a candidate not recommended by the assessment panel, the chair 
will need to consult with the responsible Minister, who would then write to the Prime Minister 
setting out the reasons for the proposed decision. 
All aspects of the Commissioner’s role as detailed above apply to appointments by a board. 
2.9 Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 bodies staffed under the Public Service 
Act 1999 

The Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act) provides that the Finance 
Minister may make a General Policy Order requiring Commonwealth authorities and wholly-owned 
Commonwealth companies to comply with a general policy of Government. 
The Finance Minister must be satisfied that the Ministers responsible for the bodies to which the 
General Policy Order will apply have consulted those bodies on the application of the policy prior to 
the making of the order. 
At February 2009, a General Policy Order has not been made and Ministerial consultation is at 
varying stages in those CAC Act bodies that operate under the Public Service Act 1999. The 
Government’s intention is for those bodies to comply with this policy unless there are special 
circumstances. If needed, the policy and guidelines may be modified (see 2.10 below). 
2.10 Circumstances requiring modified processes 
In some cases there may be legislative requirements, formal agreements with the states and/or 
territories or perceptions of conflict of interest that may arise which mean that the processes 
advised in this policy and guidelines need to be modified. 
When this is the case, the Secretary, Commissioner and agency head (if relevant) will develop a 
standing alternative arrangement. Unless it is clearly inappropriate, any alternative arrangement 
must continue to include advertising, merit-based assessment and inclusion of the Commissioner (or 
representative) in the process. 
2.11 Representation of women 
Secretaries and Ministers will continue to seek to increase the representation of women in senior 
government appointments and include women on candidate lists, for example, by using the Office 
for Women database, BoardLinks. 
BoardLinks is a source of high calibre women candidates who wish to be considered for positions on 
an Australian Government decision-making body. Agencies may request the resume of one or a 
number of women for consideration. BoardLinks can be accessed 
at https://www.boardlinks.gov.au/- external site. 
2.12 Costs 
All costs associated with filling an agency head or statutory office holder vacancy, such as advertising 
and travel costs (including costs for the Commissioner or his or her representative), will be borne by 
the agency where the vacancy occurs, or as otherwise determined by the Secretary. 


Appendix 
APS statutory appointments: Merit-based and transparent selection process (flowchart 1) 
 
Steps 
1. Portfolio Secretary maintains records of all appointments. 
2. Secretary* advises Minister in writing (copied to Public Service Commissioner) of expiring 
appointments six months before expiry date. 

3. Minister* advises incumbent in writing whether or not they will be reappointed at least four 
months prior to expiry date and copies to Secretary. Secretary copies to Public Service 
Commissioner. 
4. Incumbent to be reappointed? 
- YES (go to step 5) 
- NO (continue) 
4a. MERIT SELECTION PROCESS COMMENCES-See flowchart 2 (go to step 5 unless special 
circumstances exist (eg office holder at similar level could be transferred, eminent person available). 
5. Minister writes to Prime Minister seeking approval. 
6. Normal appointment process applies (Cabinet or Executive Council endorsement or finalisation of 
appointment by board). 
* Chair of board acts in lieu of Secretary and/or Minister where relevant. 
Merit-based and Transparent Selection Process (flowchart 2) 
1. Portfolio Secretary* and Minister* agree on selection criteria and advertising. 
2. Vacancy advertised at minimum in national press and APSjobs- external site. 
3. Secretary* (or representative) convenes and chairs assessment panel - includes Commissioner (or 
representative). 
4. Assessment panel: 
- assesses suitability of applicants against selection criteria 
- recommends shortlist of suitable candidates. 
5. Secretary* provides report to Commissioner for endorsement. 
6. Secretary* provides report to Minister. 
7. Minister accepts report's recommendations? 
- YES (go to step 8) 
- NO - Minister proposes an alternative appointee. 
8. Minister writes to Prime Minister seeking approval. 
9. Normal appointment process applies (Cabinet or Executive Council endorsement or finalisation of 
appointment by board). 
* Chair of board acts in lieu of Secretary and Minister where relevant. 
  
1.  The Australian Government’s Organisations and Appointments Register, managed by the 
Department of Finance and available through www.directory.gov.au/- external site, provides 
details on, amongst other things, terms of appointments and the method by which people 
are appointed. 
2.  www.pmc.gov.au/resource-centre/government/cabinet-handbook- external site 

3.  The Commissioner may, on occasion, request the Secretary to nominate an APS employee to 
serve as the Commissioner’s representative—such nominations would require the 
Commissioner’s approval. 
4.  The capabilities outlined under each of the main headings are not in themselves additional 
criteria and it is not intended that applications and assessments should address each and 
every capability. Rather, the capabilities assist in explaining why the criteria are important, 
by giving details of what will be expected on the job.