ACT public servants' workplace laws face overhaul within months

The laws that govern 20,000 ACT public servants' working conditions are likely to be replaced this year, but details of the overhaul remain confidential.

Cabinet ministers agreed last month to table the new legislation in the Assembly in August, saying it will allow the "efficient use and allocation of staff resources".

The proposed Public Sector Act will replace the existing Public Sector Management Act, which governs staff's employment, how they must conduct themselves, and how the ACT bureaucracy is structured.

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The overhaul has delayed a planned revamp of government recruitment guidelines, which was scheduled after the ACT Auditor-General's Office exposed shoddy hiring practices in some workplaces in 2012.


The head of the ACT Public Service, Kathy Leigh, told an estimates committee that staff and unions were being consulted about the proposed changes. However, the government says it is not yet ready to release the draft laws publicly.

Ms Leigh said the new legislation would be "much more accessible for public servants" and help them understand their obligations.

"It embeds the values [that staff must uphold] ... it elevates them to make clear the importance of observing those values and how we operate as public servants," she said.

"It also sets down some public sector principles about efficiency, effectiveness, responsiveness and accountability, which I think are key to the good performance of a public service."

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said she hoped the Assembly would pass the legislation in spring, allowing it to come into effect on January 1, 2015.

The proposed new act and its supporting standards would replace more than 500 pages of existing legislation, and one union has noted the ambitious time frame.

Most unions that represent public servants are presently busy negotiating more than 100 wage deals that cover federal bureaucrats.

The Community and Public Sector Union's ACT secretary, Vince McDevitt, said he would continue to meet with ACT officials to "flesh out the potential ramifications of the revised act".

"We note the new standards have not, to date, been provided to us. That's a considerable body of work to go through, and the time frame is tight."

This year's ACT budget offered some respite to local public servants, as the government pledged to maintain staff levels over the coming year.

However, it heralded a series of workplace reviews to follow, aimed at cutting spending and wasteful practices.