Speeches → 2019


Speech at Modernising the Public Sector

Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia

Date: Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Thank you Rosemary.

Good morning.

It is great to be here at the ‘Modernising the Public Sector’ Expo.

I am also very pleased to see so many senior public service leaders here with us today, including the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Martin Parkinson AC PSM, a number of Secretaries from across the service, and the Australian Public Service Commissioner, Peter Woolcott AO.

I would also like to welcome David Thodey, who is leading the Independent Review of the APS.

Thank you for coming along today.

Today’s Expo showcases the outstanding work happening now to improve and strengthen an already strong Australian public service.

Celebrating progress, rising to challenges

I have previously noted that the Australian public service is world class.

This isn’t just my personal opinion…

You rank third internationally in terms of overall effectiveness according to the International Civil Service Effectiveness Index.

 And you rank ninth out of 102 countries overall according to the World Justice Project Open Government Index.

These are great results, of which you can be very proud.

Of course, the world around us is changing.

The rate of technological advancement and ever growing community expectations are important reasons never to be complacent.

All of us who serve the public must continually look for new and better ways of working.

We need to make sure that public sector productivity can be sustained and improved in a world that continues to evolve around us.

Today’s Expo showcases some of the ways that the Government and the public sector are working together to meet this challenge, delivering services to citizens and businesses in new and innovative ways, and constantly improving the way the public sector operates ‘behind the scenes’. 

Better services to citizens and businesses

The Government is focused on building a strong economy and returning the budget to surplus.

An improved budget position is what enables us to invest more in the services that Australians rightly expect.

Services that improve the quality of life of Australians every day.

 Take for example, Veteran Centric Reform, which is on display here today.

You can learn more about how the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is undergoing the most comprehensive transformation in its 100-year history, with a view to designing and delivering better quality services and support for veterans and their families.

This transformation is possible because of the Government’s 
$111.9 million investment over four years, announced in last year’s Budget.

Many of you will already have walked past the Department of Human Services’ impressive display, directly opposite to where we are now.

I invite you to interact with staff from the Department of Human Services, who will share with you how they are making sure that customers are ‘front and centre’ when government services are designed.

The stall across the foyer showcases the Welfare Infrastructure Payment Transformation program.

The Modernisation Fund

Many of the projects you will see today are possible because of the Government’s investment in the Modernisation Fund.

In the 2016-17 Budget, we decided to reinvest $500 million out of a total of $1.9 billion in additional efficiency dividends to set up the public sector for the future.

Forty-two projects are underway as a result of the Fund, all designed to create a more modern, innovative and productive public sector.

Assistant Minister Seselja will say more about particular projects being delivered through the Fund.

A further 25 projects are being delivered through the work of the Secretaries APS Reform Committee.

All of the projects on show today are helping to increase efficiency within the public sector, develop different models of working, reduce duplication, automate processes or use digital technology to deliver high-value outcomes to the community.

And that is what it is all about – a public sector that is helping to produce positive outcomes for the community. 


There is one project that I wanted to focus on in particular today, Transparancy.gov.au.

In fact, I am pleased to launch pilot reports of Transparency.gov.au.

This is a new website where the public and the Parliament can more easily find information about what Government is doing, and how public money is being spent.

The website will help give the community confidence that the public sector is adding value and achieving results.

The Government and my department continue to pursue improved access to information, for both the Parliament and the public.

The website allows people to find, search, compare and share information. It includes a sample of corporate plans, annual reports and key budget information.

Such improvements in transparency will provide an opportunity for the Parliament and the public to engage with government in a more meaningful manner.

We are committed to improving accountability.

This launch of Transparency.gov.au marks the first step towards all Commonwealth bodies reporting digitally.

I will present the necessary legislative instruments to the Parliament that will require all Commonwealth bodies to publish their Annual Report through Transparency.gov.au for the 2018-19 reporting period.

This will enable all 2018-19 reports to be available on Transparency.gov.au.

Over time, more information will be made available so that this becomes the ‘go to’ site for information about what government does with taxpayer resources.

APS Review

The Independent Review of the APS is now well underway, and will help us to reflect on what we need to do to remain ahead of the game.

Your feedback is important to this review – it will help develop a set of recommendations that will ensure the APS continues to meet Australia’s needs into the future.

I understand that Mr Thodey will provide an update on the review and share some reform priorities next week. He will be asking again for your feedback on these priorities and I encourage you to get involved.


Our public service has a well-deserved reputation as being high performing, influential and responsive.

This Expo today confirms the valuable, and indeed, valued contribution that you – as public servants – make to our country and to our community.  Thank you!