By Julian Bajkowski
Despite being hit by or threatened with big number staff cuts across Australia, the nation’s public sector workforce is standing up for the value it delivers to the community by seeking frank and fearless advice from the general public on how it can do its job better.
In a bold and perhaps courageous spot of crowd-sourcing, the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) has called for fresh, innovative and inspiring ideas from the community at large “that will make the public service smarter, better and broader and highlight innovation and leadership within public administration.”
It’s a move that public sector professionals clearly hope will help build a more productive engagement with everyday Australians as the public sector continues to be targeted by savings hungry ministers and the media.
Simply dubbed as ‘The Pitch,’ the call for ideas is this year taking the form of a competition where winners could score a modest but still enticing $500 in prize money.
“The Pitch competition is a wonderful opportunity for people to highlight ideas that they are passionate about or feel would help make the public service smarter, better and broader,” said the president of the Canberra chapter of the IPAA Andrew Metcalfe AO – whose day job is running the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry,
Finalists will also get a free pass to the IPAA 2013 National Conference in Canberra 20th and 21st of November.
The conference is expected to be particularly well attended and open to new ideas this year given it is scheduled to run just weeks after the Federal Election is held on 7th September.
A key theme of for 2013 is restoring trust in public policy, a topic on which IPAA national president and the former head of the Commonwealth and Victorian public services Terry Moran has taken a firm stand.
In May this year Mr Moran took strong issue with the Coalition’s portrayal of the public service as a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy that had grown by 20,000 positions over five years without attendant increases in service delivery or efficiency.
Jumping to the public sector’s defence, Mr Moran took to the airwaves to point out that the overall size of the public sector in proportion to the total workforce had actually declined from 26 per cent to just 16 per cent since 1984.
Talking on Radio National Mr Moran urged reforms including as much coal-face service delivery activity as possible be devolved to local the local level because this was where the highest quality, most efficient and most responsive outcomes could be achieved.
“It’s nuts for the Commonwealth to try and set up service delivery operations in health, education, vocational education and training,” Mr Moran told Radio National. “Because there are other people beyond state and at state level who will do it better and that can yield big efficiencies.”
Mr Moran is also a noted defender of allowing background media access to public servants tasked with delivering policies and reforms so that the government’s wider message in issues like reform measures can be understood beyond simple sound bites and 30 second grabs.
While media backgrounders were once common in the 1990s on complex issues like economic, health or social policy reform, ministerial staff had since gradually tightened access.
In May Mr Moran warned that “people in the community will only accept that [reform] if they have some chance of understanding it.
“They will only understand it if journalists and others explain it to them or they can access credible information online – not dopey stuff.”
The cut-off date for ideas to be submitted to IPAA’s The Pitch is 11th October 2013.
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up to the Government News newsletter