Working in Government
A willingness to serve and the ability to apply a deep understanding of the context in which the APS operates.
All public servants must have an understanding of Australia’s system of government and how to work effectively within it.
Working in Government requires an understanding of the context in which the APS operates and the ability to be responsive and agile, providing rigorous advice to the government of the day.
It's really important that a public servant understands Australia's system of government and the role of a public servant within it. You can't be a good public servant if you don't actually understand the role of the Commonwealth versus the states and territories. If you don't understand the role of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and Ministers, you don't understand where accountability sits, where decisions are taken.
We're also accountable for the advice, and even if that's preliminary advice or it's early research, or it's the way we engage with our colleagues across the service or externally, all of that is part of and builds towards the higher level of accountability. Everything we do is really about benefit to the Australian citizen.
What’s your best advice on how to be agile and responsive when working in Government?
I don't think you can be agile, and I don't think you can be really responsive if you are not prepared. We need to be curious. We need to understand context. We need to be able to do that, whether that's through listening to what the Prime Minister and Minister says, listening to what the Australian community is saying, being informed. And then you can have quite clear-eyed views and be able to adapt when you know we have to shift resources around.
What does frank and fearless advice mean in the APS?
You need to have good relationships with whoever it is that you're advising. If you can build a level of trust, you can provide fearless advice in a way that is likely to be received well. Fearless advice is being able to say to a minister what you think they don't want to hear. Sometimes the advice has to be a little bit uncomfortable because that is the reality. But if you don't have a relationship of trust, it's very difficult to provide difficult advice.
What does it mean to provide informed advice to Government?
What that means to me is that it has been really well road-tested. Which Australian community, what part of the community is this intended to benefit? Will it? How would you know? Because you've tested it with stakeholders, you've looked at the research, you've pulled it apart, you've put it back together. Does it stand up? You've asked others to peer review it if it's necessary. You've really, really, really tested every element of it. And only then can you say to government, I'm confident I understand the parameters of this and I can answer all of the questions that I know that you will have. And if you can't, then you say to government this element of it remains to be fully tested so that you're very clear, particularly when it's very complex policy.
Effectively working in government represents a willingness to serve and requires:
- Knowing Australia’s system of government and the Australian Public Service's role in it
- Being responsive and providing rigorous advice to decision makers
- Understanding the budget process and how the APS contributes to its development
- Leading the development of legislation and policy and working within it
- Being accountable to the ministers, under legislation and within Parliamentary oversight and transparency mechanisms