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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3592 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Let me turn to the question of tenure. The approach to tenure for chief executives and executives is not sustainable. While term appointments of up to five years are retained, similar to arrangements we have now, this is against a backdrop of protected tenured employment. Chief executives or executives who have not been re-engaged or whose jobs are excess as a result of organisational change are placed on special assignment until they are found employment elsewhere or they accept a voluntary redundancy package. This is not feasible or sustainable in a small public service with only six chief executive officers.

One of the key issues, that of ensuring high performance standards, is not addressed.

The government takes no issue with the termination on just cause provisions. However, the bill gives only two examples of termination for just cause-incapacity or criminal conviction. While the bill states this list is not exhaustive, it creates the impression of an independent statutory office rather than a person employed to implement policies on behalf of government and achieve results in a public service environment.

Failure to perform or meet job requirements is not mentioned. The bill ducks the key issue of what to do about non-performance or underperformance in critical jobs. Again, a solution to an assumed problem has been proposed without thinking through what kind of service we want and how best to get there.

The constraint on executive termination preferred by this Assembly in 1995, the prohibition on removing chief executives or executives because of incompatibility, is removed.

Building and maintaining a performance culture based on public service values has been a critical issue of this government's reforms. Turning the clock back without addressing the failure of traditional structures is not in the public interest.

Lack of responsiveness to change, lack of service orientation and responsiveness to government, burying performance issues in jobs labelled "special projects"-these are some of the failings reforms in public administration have addressed over the past decade.

The bill creates a possibility of chief executives and executives remaining on the books but doing nothing for years. A small public service environment cannot afford to do this. There is little capacity to respond to changed needs or new challenges.

The bill raises issues that go to the heart of public sector management and governance. There is no detailed conceptual backdrop to these issues apart from the desire for a career service and more traditional structures.

Mr Osborne's framework makes a contribution to debate about these issues. That is what it should be-a platform for debate, not a bill in the form that this bill takes. His advisers have put their arguments for a particular approach, but issues of public interest and accountability are subject to continuing robust debate.

Mr Osborne's introduction speech itself discloses the debate about public interest. He cites the former South Australian Auditor-General who states:

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