Public service needs helping hand during reform process

Joe Zabar (CSSA)

The not-for-profit sector must extend a hand to the Australian Public Service as it undertakes its journey of reform, writes Catholic Social Services Australia's Joe Zabar. Source: Pro Bono News.

The Morrison Government’s reform of the Australian Public Service (APS) will require a herculean effort if it is to succeed. There are several themes running through the Thodey report, none more important than the APS learning to better foster partnerships and collaboration across government, civil society, business and academia. The report flags a perception problem with the APS, highlighting concerns that its engagement with stakeholders is often tokenistic, too late in the process and simply seeks endorsement of decisions already made.

To address this, the report proposes the development of a Charter of Partnerships to set clear expectations – for government, the APS and the community – on how the APS will work with its external partners. The charter recognises the value of partnerships and joint decision making, but for it have any effect, sitting governments will need to demand the APS embraces this as the new way of working with its partners.

While David Thodey’s criticism of the APS rings true, one cannot help but ponder what more could the charity and not-for-profit sector have done to secure the changes needed to address disadvantage and poverty in Australia.

The answer to that question is complicated, but central to it is an acknowledgement that our sector must extend a hand to the APS as they undertake their journey of reform.

Our first task as a sector is to invest in our capacity to undertake policy advocacy. At a recent forum of Catholic social service providers, former Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane told participants that “at the end of the day, the job of the politician is to make public decisions about the use of scarce resources – so evidence really counts”.

Loughnane’s message was clear: governments have to make hard decisions about their funding priorities; these decisions are public, with political consequences; and policy/funding priority changes need persuasive evidence to see them implemented.

Our best chance to cut through the policy white noise and assist government to develop better public policy is for the sector to build its capacity to participate in public policy debates.

Joe Zabar is the deputy chief executive of Catholic Social Services Australia.

FULL STORY

It’s time for the charity sector to invest in its capacity to shape the public policy agenda (Pro Bono News

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