Introduction to the Prime Minister's Address to the APS, Institute of Public Administration Australia (ACT Division)

Introduction to the Prime Minister's Address to the APS, Institute of Public Administration Australia (ACT Division)

PM&C Who We Are The Secretary
Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Martin Parkinson
Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister


Good morning, everyone. Itʹs a privilege to be introducing the Prime Minister in his first major address to the Public Service. I welcome you on behalf of IPAA and the Prime Minister to this morningʹs address. Iʹd first like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we gather today, the Ngunnawal People, and to pay my respects to elders past and present. I extend that respect to all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People here today.

Successful governments see the political class and the public service as partners; with each, with a clear role, contributing in their area of expertise to develop and implement policies and programs and to deliver services and regulatory functions. Improving the wellbeing of Australian in this way is easiest done with professionalism, cooperation and good will on both sides.

As public servants, how can we make that partnership as productive as possible? First and foremost, we must be an ideas ecosystem. We provide the government with an engine room to conceive, test and implement ideas. Thatʹs what weʹre all doing, whether weʹre in policy, program, service delivery, regulatory or support roles. Because we deal in the creation, implementation and assessment of ideas, we should be a natural home for innovation and blue‐sky thinking. Yet, sadly, we are not as good as I think we can be or we need to be if we are to deliver what Australians expect of us. This will be an ongoing priority for me as Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

A second priority is leadership. My expectation, and I venture to say the Prime Ministerʹs expectation, is that every person at every level will be a leader.

Leadership comes in many forms and the sooner you realise that leadership comes in a package the same size and shape as you the better. This is a sentiment very much inspired by someone that many of us in this room have looked up to for a long time: the late Tony Ayers AC, who was laid to rest yesterday after a very full and productive Public Service career, including 19 years as secretary of a range of
departments, and 10 years as Secretary of the Department of Defence.

Before the Prime Minister speaks, what can I tell you about working with him? He is an open book. He wants our ideas. He will seek our advice but he will also question our advice and seek the advice of others. He will look at ideas from every angle. Sometimes heʹll walk away and think about it and come back again. From what Iʹve seen, he wonʹt be reckless or hasty. He feels keenly his responsibilities to the Australian people. Now, this presents us public servants with opportunities like weʹve never had before. Those who have the courage to seek out ideas, to base them on evidence and to advocate for them are entering a rich period of possibility.

As head of PM&C and of the APS, I want to capitalise on these opportunities to build a smarter, more prosperous and innovative Australia where each generation builds on the success of the last.

But that requires an APS that is innovative, flexible and—yes, Prime Minister—even agile, and an APS that displays leadership at every level. On that note, please join me now in welcoming the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to talk to us about his vision for the Australian Public Service.