|Australian Public Service overview|
|Formed||1 January 1901|
(39.1 per cent of staff)
|Employees||155,796 (at December 2021)|
|Australian Public Service executives|
|Minister for the Public Service|
|Australian Public Service|
|Appointer||Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Australia|
|Inaugural holder||Mathias Cormann|
|Formation||28 August 2018|
The Australian Public Service (APS) is the federal civil service of the Commonwealth of Australia responsible for the public administration, public policy, and public services of the departments and executive and statutory agencies of the Government of Australia. The Australian Public Service was established at the Federation of Australia in 1901 as the Commonwealth Public Service and modelled on the Westminster system and United Kingdom's Civil Service. The establishment and operation of the Australian Public Service is governed by the Public Service Act 1999 of the Parliament of Australia as an "apolitical public service that is efficient and effective in serving the Government, the Parliament and the Australian public". The conduct of Australian public servants is also governed by a Code of Conduct and guided by the APS Values set by the Australian Public Service Commission.
As such, the employees and officers of the Australian Public Service are obliged to serve the government of the day with integrity and provide "frank and fearless advice" on questions of public policy, from national security to fiscal policy to social security, across machinery of government arrangements. Indeed, the Australian Public Service plays a major part in Australian life by providing "cradle to grave" services with a degree of shared responsibility with the State and Territory governments. The Australian Public Service as an entity does not include the broader Commonwealth public sector including the Australian Defence Force, Commonwealth companies such as NBN Co or the Australian Rail Track Corporation, or Commonwealth corporate entities such as the Australian National University or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The Australian Public Service does not include the civil services of the State and Territory governments.
Public servants are ultimately responsible to the Parliament of Australia via their respective portfolio Minister. The Australian Public Service Commission is responsible for promoting the values of the public service, evaluating performance and compliance, and facilitating the development of people and institutional capabilities. The Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is the most senior public servant and plays a leadership role as the chair of the intergovernmental Secretaries Board made up of all Commonwealth departmental secretaries. The Australian National Audit Office, the Department of Finance, the Department of the Treasury, and the Attorney-General's Department also have whole-of-government oversight and management responsibilities.
As at June 2015, the Australian Public Service comprises some 152,430 officers alongside a further 90,000 people employed in the broader Commonwealth public sector. Accordingly, the Australian Public Service is one of the largest employers in Australia.
The Australian public service was established at Federation of Australia on 1 January 1901. The departments established on that date were Attorney-General's, Defence, External Affairs, Home Affairs, Trade and Customs, Postmaster-General's, and Treasury.
The first public service appointments were made under section 67 of the Constitution of Australia, an arrangement that remained in place until the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902 commenced on 1 January 1903, at which time there were 11,374 officials employed under the Act.
The Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922 introduced a new legislative framework commencing in 1923, and created the Public Service Board.
A section in both the 1902 and 1922 Acts stated that every female officer was deemed to have retired from the Commonwealth service upon her marriage. In November 1966 Australia became the last democratic country to lift the legislated marriage bar which had prevented married women from holding permanent positions in the public service.
In November 1996, Peter Reith issued a discussion paper, Towards a best practice Australian Public Service. The paper, among other things, recommended key elements which might need to be incorporated into a new streamlined and principles-based Public Service Act. After several years spent developing a new Act, the Public Service Act 1999 came into effect on 5 December 1999. The new Act introduced APS Values and a Code of Conduct into the Act for the first time. Public servants who breach the code of conduct can be demoted, fined, reprimanded or fired.
In 2010 a comprehensive reform agenda was introduced as outlined in Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration.The reforms were aimed at strengthening strategic direction, citizen engagement and staff capability across the APS.
Geoff Gallop describes the spectrum of activities undertaken by staff in the APS as fitting into four work functions: service delivery; law making, rule making and policy development; tax collection and managing government finance; and monitoring and enforcing laws and regulations.
The APS Values are set out in section 10 of the Public Service Act 1999. The Values are mandatory and are intended to embody the principles of good public administration.
The APS Values were most recently revised in 2013, with the aim to comprise a smaller set of core values that are meaningful, memorable and effective in driving change. The values are stated in section 10 of the Public Service Act 1999 as follows:
|APS staff employed by year. Figures gathered from annual State of the Service reports and historic news articles |
The Australian Public Service formally comprises all Australian Government departments and agencies where staff members are or can be employed under the Public Service Act 1999. At December 2021, there were 155,796 APS employees, up 4.8% from December 2020. citation needed] Staffing in Australian Public Service agencies accounts for around half of total employment in Australian Government administration. Public servants employed by the Commonwealth Government under legislation other than the Public Service Act include Australian Defence Force personnel, government business enterprise employees, parliamentary staff, Australian Federal Police staff and public servants under other Commonwealth agency-specific legislation.[
In the decade to December 2012 the APS grew in numbers; there was also notable 'classification creep', in which a higher proportion of staff are employed at higher pay-grade levels. Before the 2013 federal election, the Coalition promised to reduce the size of the public service by at least 12000 jobs, through natural attrition. Joe Hockey told an Adelaide radio station in May 2013 that the Coalition planned for the loss of 12,000 public service jobs to be just a starting point in the first two years of a Coalition government.
57.9 per cent of all APS employees are women. 39.1 per cent of APS employees work in the Australian Capital Territory. At June 2013, the median age for ongoing APS employees was 43 years. Like the Australian population, the APS workforce has been ageing rapidly since the early 1990s.
At June 2013 the largest federal government agency was Services Australia with 33,658 employees, followed by the Australian Taxation Office with 24,274 employees and the Department of Defence with 22,330.
In 2009 there was a ratio of one APS official for every 135 Australians, compared to 1991 ratios of 1:106.
Beginning in 2009–10 all APS entities were required to report in accordance with the Outcomes and Programs Framework, whereby programs provide the link between Australian Government decisions, activities and their actual outcomes. In the Outcomes and Programs Framework, organisations identify and report against the programs that contribute to government outcomes over the budget and forward years. All APS agencies contribute to Portfolio Budget Statements that inform Parliament and the public of the proposed allocation of Government outcomes. Portfolio budget statements outline:
Annual reports report performance of agencies in relation to services provided.
Prior to the introduction of the Outcomes and Programs Framework APS entities reported against an Outcomes and Outputs Framework, which had been introduced in 1999. Reforms have been progressively introduced to the APS with the specific aim of making it more efficient, accountable and responsive to community needs since the mid-1980s.
The Australian National Audit Office provides the Australian Parliament and the public with an independent assessment of selected areas of public administration in the APS, and assurance about APS financial reporting, administration and accountability.
In November 2009 KPMG published a report benchmarking Australian Public Service performance against international public services. The report found that the APS measured up well against some of the world's leading public services. The report found that the APS is a high performer compared to other public services when it came to: being responsive to economic changes; being independent and values-based; and for proportions of women employed. It found that the APS performed poorly in: its capability for coordinated, informed and strategic policy; its mechanisms for integrating external stakeholders into policy development and service design; and its understanding of government priorities through an overarching framework.
The APS is often the target of public criticism. For example, in 2011 and again in 2013, the director, deregulation at the Institute of Public Affairs, Alan Moran, argued that the Australian Government was not seeking enough savings from a bloated Australian Public Service. In October 2013, newly appointed Defence Minister David Johnston told media he had 'inherited a mess' and that he believed that in the Defence department '23,000 public servants is too heavy.' The Noetic group said in 2014 that most Australian Public Service organisations could not demonstrate the benefits from large and expensive programs of work.
Other commentators, including political scientist Richard Mulgan, have argued that rhetoric in 2013 about a bloated APS is ill-informed and unsustainable, if service benchmarks are to be met. Rob Burgess, in a Business Spectator article in November 2012 argued that efficiency dividends imposed on the public service are actually delivering one of the world's leaner public sectors.
All APS vacancies for ongoing and non-ongoing jobs for more than 12 months are notified in the APS Employment Gazette, a weekly electronic publication. Public service wages were decentralised in 1997, allowing individual APS agencies to negotiate their own pay deals. Individual Australian Government agency websites also advertise jobs and some jobs are advertised on external job boards, such as in newspapers.
The Australian Public Service (APS) career structure is hierarchical.  The table below lists APS employment classification levels from lowest to highest.
|Level/classification||Example position titles[A]||Total annual base[B]
(Base rate 2021)
|Percent at level |
|APS 1||Departmental Officer||$44,605|
|APS 2||Departmental Officer||$50,479|
|APS 3||Departmental Officer||$57,500||16.6% |
(APS 3 and below)
|APS 4||Departmental Officer||$65,133||18.4%|
|APS 5||Departmental Officer||$71,477||14.1%|
|APS 6||Departmental Officer||$78,374||22.3%|
|Executive Level 1 (EL1)||Assistant Director
Assistant Section Manager
|Executive Level 2 (EL2)||Director
|Senior Executive Service Band 1 (SES Band 1)||Assistant Secretary (AS)
Branch Manager (BM)
|Senior Executive Service Band 2 (SES Band 2)||First Assistant Secretary (FAS)
|Senior Executive Service Band 3 (SES Band 3)||Deputy Secretary (DEPSEC)
Chief Executive Officer
|Departmental head||Secretary||$673,000 (2013)|
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) is responsible to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service. The APSC is led by a Commissioner, who is tasked with promoting the APS Values, evaluating public service performance and compliance, and helping to build the capability of the Service.
The Government also recognises a role for the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for certain aspects of leadership of the APS.