International Handbook on Civil Service Systems
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International Handbook on Civil Service Systems

Edited by Andrew Massey

While there is no universally accepted definition of civil servant and civil service, this authoritative and informative Handbook compares and contrasts various approaches to organising the structure and activities of different civil service systems.
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Chapter 13: The Australian Public Service System

John Halligan and Chris Sadleir


John Halligan and Chris Sadleir The Australian civil service system can be characterized in several ways. As a federal system, Australia has nine civil service systems: in addition to the national level, the six states and two territories operate within a modified Westminster form of government and with considerable independence under the constitution. There has also been reference recently to ‘one service’ in the sense of a national cross-jurisdictional public service, although that is nascent at best. Australia’s central government (known variously as the federal or commonwealth) was inaugurated 110 years ago, and only came to preside over the national system during the second half of its existence (from the Second World War). It has the Australian public service (APS), which has core responsibilities centred on departments of state, the main focus of this chapter. Civil service systems can be analysed in terms of several design dimensions: as operating personnel arrangements, as governance and symbolically (McGregor and Solano 1996). The emphasis here is on selected aspects of the personnel and governance arrangements. In order to contextualize the Australian public service’s recent development, several models assist with identifying significant dimensions: the contraction and expansion of the public service, changing roles internally and externally, and the structure and identity of the system. The first model conceives of the public service as expansive and comprehensive, bounded with a developed internal labour market, and an integrated conception of membership. The second reflects the minimalist conception of the public service (asset sales, reduced core roles,...

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