Secretary’s review

New department, new spirit

The Department of Employment promptly set to work after its inception in September 2013. We played a crucial role in implementing major government policies, provided reliable and insightful advice to ministers, and started delivering on a suite of new initiatives and programmes. All this was achieved because our people quickly came together as one, demonstrating energy, teamwork and a positive attitude.

Establishing our own culture and identity was critical to early success, and we did this through the introduction of a department vision, captured in the phrase More Jobs. Great Workplaces. Developing our inaugural Strategic Plan and Reconciliation Action Plan added to this process. Most importantly, our people shared ideas, found new and better ways of doing things and anticipated change. Today they feel valued, engaged and motivated and this is reflected in their work.

Delivering from day one

Our department delivered on its fundamental priority in 2013–14, which was to implement the government’s programmes, policies and election commitments in an effective and professional manner.

A number of Bills relating to the employment portfolio were introduced—some of them among the first and most prominent pieces of legislation put before the new parliament.  Besides being significant in their own right, these Bills underpin the government’s wider plan to boost productivity and competitiveness, and to create prosperity and opportunity for all Australians. I greatly appreciate the quality of the work and collaborative effort shown by those employees who developed the legislation and supported its passage through the parliament.

With Australia’s G20 presidency beginning on 1 December 2013, the department took a lead role in international discussions and in supporting the meetings of the G20 Task Force on Employment.

We contributed to the government’s deregulation agenda by cutting the cost of red tape to business, community organisations and individuals. We also coordinated regulatory reduction opportunities across our portfolio and consulted with stakeholders.

The Tasmanian Jobs Programme—the first in a series of new employment programmes—launched in December 2013, six months ahead of schedule. The department also prepared for the 1 July introduction of the Restart wage subsidy, the Job Commitment Bonus and the Relocation to Take Up a Job programme. While continuing to deliver Job Services Australia, we worked on the design and implementation of the new arrangements for employment services that are scheduled to start in July 2015.

Our state network employees continued to foster and develop strong connections with employment service providers and other stakeholders, including community organisations, state and local governments, non-government entities, industry and training bodies.

One of the department’s many strengths is the quality and rigour of its system of structured evaluation, review, research and data analysis. Our practical application of quantitative and qualitative data analytics is recognised across the Australian Public Service as a key factor underpinning our ongoing policy-design and service-delivery improvements.

Sharing our services

In partnership with the Department of Education, we established an innovative and effective Shared Services Centre to provide many corporate services to both departments. As the chair of the Shared Services Centre board, I worked closely with colleagues from Education, the Australian Public Service Commission, the Department of Finance and portfolio agencies to embed and enhance this new method of delivering corporate services.

For employees working in the centre, this initiative offers a terrific opportunity to be involved in a new and efficient way of providing services—one that both serves our needs now and has the potential to shape the future of corporate services provision right across the Australian Public Service.

Our people, our strength

Our people are at the core of our business, and I am determined to develop the talent within our ranks. The key people and capability priorities outlined in the Strategic Plan feature in our People and Capability Strategy.

Twenty-three graduates joined the department in 2013–14, and I was deeply impressed by their enthusiasm and the valuable contributions they made across the course of the year.

We are committed to embracing the cultural diversity not only of our employees, but also of the wider community we work with. Our first multicultural plan will strengthen our desire to ensure all Australians have equitable access to the department’s services and programmes.

We have appointed a Disability Champion to provide leadership and support within the department and to represent us externally.

Indigenous business remains our business, and I am passionate about this. We are building a department that is not only an employer of choice for Indigenous people, but also one that encourages the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and works towards positive outcomes for Indigenous Australians. I have appointed an Indigenous Leader to advise the Executive on matters of importance to Indigenous employees, and an Indigenous Champion who has a role in whole-of-government approaches to Indigenous employment.

I was delighted to release our draft Reconciliation Action Plan, in May 2014, as part of National Reconciliation Week celebrations. We developed the plan in consultation with employees, and it outlines actions and targets to ensure that everyone in the department makes Indigenous business their day-to-day business. The plan will be launched later in 2014.

Sound financial results

We recorded a surplus before depreciation, amortisation and revaluations of $17.9 million for 2013–14. Administered expenses were $1.7 billion. Our finance team worked tirelessly on the separation from the former Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and I thank them for their endeavours.

During 2013–14 we contributed to the implementation of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, which will replace most aspects of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 on 1 July 2014. More information on the department’s financial performance can be found in Part 5 of this report.

The way ahead

As we begin 2014–15, the department is embracing a new and exciting set of priorities, challenges and opportunities. We will continue to build a strong and inclusive culture within our department, while delivering employment services that ultimately improve the lives of Australians.

We will keep providing robust policy advice on employment and workplace relations, prepare for the implementation of the new employment services model and continue to diligently deliver on the government’s election commitments.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge the positive way in which everyone in the Department of Employment has approached the 2013–14 year, and I warmly thank them for their spirit, good humour and outstanding efforts. I look forward to leading the department through our first full year of operations, and to our recording many more achievements and milestones.

Renée Leon signature

Renée Leon