Australian Public Sector Internal Report  Term Paper

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Press Release: Three decades of change: the Australian public sector

During the 1970s, Australia's declining public wealth began to necessitate a number of reforms. This began by focusing on the financial aspect of the public sector, and there were some rather panicky attempts to reduce spending. During the 1980s the focus gradually shifted towards the broader problems that still existed despite short-term financial remedies. Public sector efficiency, responsibility, accountability and recruitment practices were improved during this decade. The 1983 White Paper for example made recommendations regarding the terms of employment of departmental secretaries and other public service executives.

The Public Service Reform Act of 1984 implemented legislation with regard to the recommendations in the 1983 White Paper. This was a further step forward for Australian public sector reform.

The important thing in this decade is to recognize that there was a shift of focus in recognizing problems in the public sector, and finding remedies that focus on each specific issue. It is with this in mind that the most significant decade in Australian public sector reform is entered.

The focus of the 1990s is on leadership and management. In general business practice, bureaucracy was no longer an accepted form of management. The Australian public sector was no different. The focus on value of service delivery also made it necessary to focus on public opinion. After all, the public is the "customer" serviced by the public sector.

This of course seems to be somewhat removed from the sole focus on finances during the 1970s or on the structure of public services themselves during the 1980s. The truth is however that the focus on management includes all the other aspects of the public sector. Adequate management will necessarily result in adequate expenditure practices as well as quality of service provision.

Management in the Australian public sector then is no longer based upon a hierarchical structure. The government, public sector top and middle managers, as well as the public are all seen as stakeholders with a voice in public sector reform. In this way the public sector acts almost as one large place of business, which must be managed accordingly. Managing out has been a central concept during these reforms.

Managing out means that there is not only a vertical alignment of leadership and services, but also a horizontal alignment. Technological advances have made a number of services, which cannot always be handled by public servants themselves, necessary. The Australian economy is thus boosted by outsourcing the variety of new technology related services.

The public sector can therefore no longer afford to focus only on one aspect of service delivery. Indeed, an integrated system is in development, which focuses on central values such as accountability, responsibility and transparency, as well as on skill sets aimed at political management, managing relationships and delivering results.

The Public Service Act of 1999 is a culmination of three decades of continual change. Public servants are all made aware of the central values according to which they are to operate. The public is involved in decision making and managing out practices. Financial and human resources are integrated and utilized to optimize the value of public service delivery.

The future for the public sector in Australia looks rosy if the last three decades are anything to go by. The focus of the sector on modern values that are important to its customers shows that it takes to heart any changes that the business world deems important. This was as true in the 1970s as it is today, and does not seem likely to change in the future. If more businesses followed the strategic reform practices of the Australian public sector, maybe fewer managers would…

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