Monday, 18 January 2016

Wanted for Canberra: a different kind of independent Senator

Many years ago, in that great age when long lunches were a feature of a lobbyist's life, I was grumbling about yet another outbreak of Canberra bashing as a government set out to reduce spending. The national capital, I suggested, needed some political clout yet that was impossible with an electoral system that enabled both Labor and the Coalition to take it for granted. The House of Representative seats were as good as certain Labor wins and with two Senators to be elected, the odds strongly favoured a one all split among the big two.
With minds well stimulated, my lunching companions began considering the problem and one of them, a very senior public servant, came up with an innovative idea that secured general agreement as being a potential solution. What the Canberra Senate race needed was a candidate in the tradition of the independent and impartial public servant who would have only one policy: to support policies that benefited the Australian Capital Territory and oppose any that hurt it.
This Senator would be an unashamed political blackmailer. In return for pro-Canberra policies by a government there would be support for all legislation. Anti-Canberra policies would automatically result in votes against all government legislation.
As is the way with long and liquid lunches no action was taken. It was only a report by Noel Towell in The Canberra Times this morning that brought it back into my mind.

From Barton to Bangalore: offshore APS comes closer

The Australian Public Service (APS) is now openly canvassing sending some of its work to private sector players operating offshore, most likely India, according to tech industry reports.
Finance Department officials told private sector representatives last month that the department was prepared to follow the NSW government's lead and send work to India, as part of its ongoing drive to revive the "shared services" model of backroom operations.
Finance has been canvassing private players for advice on stepping up the shared services model being pushed under the Coalition government's "contestability agenda". ...
Momentum for APS work to be undertaken in Asia has been growing for years. The ATO was in talks in 2014 with a giant multinational contractor about taking ATO work to the Philippines, and Health Department work has been going to India for several years.
iTnews reported on the minutes of the recent briefing, which confirmed that Finance was looking to take the idea of offshore shared services to the next level.
"Interested in gathering the information required to determine whether allowing any functions to be performed offshore would be beneficial, and understanding what the benefits (and associated risks) of this approach might be," the briefing notes say.
"Finance would like to understand industry's views on which (if any) services could be effectively provided offshore."
It was also revealed at the briefing that more federal agencies were keen to act as providers of shared services, joining the official and rapidly expanding official Shared Services Centre operating out of the departments of Education and Employment.
Defence, the Tax Office, Treasury, the Department of Industry, and a group of smaller regulatory agencies said they wanted to join the wave of shared services enthusiasm sweeping the public service.
This is not the only example of why Canberra people have a reason to be angry with what federal governments do to them. Last May Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce was lobbying to move a public service organisation out of Canberra even though it just signed a 10-year, $12.2 million lease. Mr Joyce's wants to relocate the Grains Research and Development Corporation to Wagga Wagga



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