A Taste of Government

Thank you very much. It is a privilege and honour to be able to welcome you to your Parliament House and to welcome you to the Australian Public Service.

Congratulations for applying for a job in the Australian Public Service, but even more so, congratulations on being chosen. Many, many apply and few are chosen. The fact that you have been chosen to serve in the Australian Public Service is of great credit to you.

The Public Service, like with politicians, have many jokes told about them - usually to our detriment. Having said that, the Parliamentarians aside, the Public Service is a very, very honourable calling. I would encourage you to see your role in the Public Service as a calling and an opportunity to make a difference for good, for our nation.  

There are also personal benefits as well. Hopefully the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Commissioner of the Australian Public Service Commission will be able to give an indication to you of the career paths that are available. Mr Thawley just advised me that he joined the Australian Public Service, I think  in 1972. What it shows is he didn’t start as Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 1972. He had to follow a path a career path. If I might use that analogy, cream does rise to the top.

You have two excellent gentlemen sitting in front of you. You have the opportunity in the Public Service to prove your worth. The sky is the limit.

Your work, your endeavours, your collation of information, your development of policy will have an impact on your fellow Australians.  

Now, being a democracy you are the advisers and ultimately us Parliamentarians are the deciders. You don’t necessarily always have to convince the Parliamentarians that your advice is necessarily right or that your guidance is correct. Your task always, however, is to give full, frank and fearless advice. Every now and then I joke that that is your task, so us Parliamentarians can go on to make our own mistakes, but never the less be fully-informed.

We can take, I think, some comfort in the fact that in my role as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Serve we have seen the need because of budgetary and other restraints to decrease the size of the Australian Public Service. But as this room bears testament we have not applied a freeze. We have seen the need to continually regenerate and bring new blood into the Australian Public Service. That is what I am very pleased we have been able to achieve. Whilst ensuring the Public Service is brought to a sustainable level, we are never–the-less recruiting graduates from right around the country to all the areas of the Public Service.

When you get your pay, when you sit at your desk, when you use your computer, when you turn the light switch on, when you use a biro – do they still use biros in the Public Service, or is it all on the keyboards these days? -But remember your salary and whatever you use,  is funded by our fellow Australians through their taxes.

I remind myself of that each and every day as well.  As a result, we as servants of the public have a huge responsibility to them to ensure that they get value for the money that they give us in our salaries and in the office supplies and equipment we use. Never forget that.

Also remember that your salary, my salary, our salaries, and all of those things I talked about can only be funded if there is a sufficient tax base to pay for it. What does that tell you? The economy has to be number one. Without an economy to pay for these things, we simply wouldn’t be able to deliver all the human services and all the other things the Australian people expect from us.

As a Parliamentarian from time to time you go around the electorate. On one occasion I hit upon a sandstone quarry. There were three blokes working in the quarry.  I asked them about what they were doing. One grumbled and said, “splitting rocks, what does it look like.” The second turned and said, “I’m here earning a living for the Mrs and the kids.” Talking to the third one, he told me he was helping to build a cathedral. Three people doing exactly the same job but with a completely different perspective of the importance of the work they are doing.

I would like you to think of that. That the task that you are undertaking as you embark on your career in the Public Service - don’t think of it just as a job or as a meal ticket. Think of it, as being part of a group of men and women who are building the Australian nation.

We have the best country in the world. The reason for that is because there have been previous generations of Public Servants and Parliamentarians making a difference to ensure our nation is the best. That’s your duty. That’s my duty. That is our collective duty to ensure that Australia remains the best country in the world.

As you embark upon your career in the Australian Public Service I want to encourage you to do your very best, not only for yourselves, but also for the people of Australia that we are sworn to serve. We live in the best country. We have great jobs in the Parliament and the Public Service. But we are sworn to serve our fellow Australians and do our very best.

I seek to do my very best, and the few of you that I have already met today, I have no doubt that you are also committed to that task; to build our nation and to make it even better and stronger for this generation and generations to follow.

I wish you every success in your career. Let’s build Australia together.

Thank you very much.


About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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