Australia's former top bureaucrat has leapt to the defence of the Australian Public Service, saying critics of the service were wrong.
Former Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Terry Moran said public sector workers enjoyed some of the highest levels of trust and respect among the public of all professional groups despite "some of the rhetoric that gets flung around".
Presenting awards in Canberra on Monday evening to departments and agencies for their achievements in digital innovation, Mr Moran said Australia's public sector was the envy of many developed nations.
He told the gathering at the National Archives of Australia that the sector was lean, efficient, high-performing and that public servants should be proud of their work, whatever the detractors say.
"Despite the rhetoric that gets flung around, we have a high-performing, low-cost sector that delivers a range of services that are the envy of many comparable countries.
"Measured as a share of GDP, the services provided by all three levels of government in Australia costs around 35 per cent of GDP.
"That figure is close to the lowest of any OECD country."
Mr Moran said the figures were better than those of Canada, New Zealand and the United States, the nation often held up as the model of small government.
The former PM&C boss also said public servants had been forced for decades to do more with less.
"In the 1980s, public sector employment was about 25 per cent of total employment," he said.
"It's now about 16 per cent of total employment.
"That's a very big reduction…and yet the services that the public sector provides now are vastly superior to what they were 30 years ago.
"In all, it's a pretty impressive set of achievements – and it's regrettable that it's not more widely recognised."
On the day when accounting giant Ernst and Young published a report urging Australian government agencies to do more, Mr Moran was handing out awards to agencies that had excelled in embracing technology.
The Department of Human Services, the Immigration Department and the Federal Court all went home with National Archives' Digital Excellence Awards.
Mr Moran cited Roy Morgan research that he said proved the high esteem in which public sector workers were held by Australians.
"Whatever we may be told about how the public regards our work, the truth is our people on the front line are respected and trusted," he said.
"This is an enormous endorsement of our public sector colleagues and a major asset to preserve as we embark on former public sector reform."