Richard Marles may not have had a particularly warm and fuzzy time last week, but that doesn't mean every week is like that.
The Defence Minister - who is also the Deputy Prime Minister - had sharp words for his department and the Australian Defence Force this week, about the standards he expects.
"...I make no excuses or apologies for demanding excellence and a culture of excellence in the Department of Defence and in the Australian Defence Force," he told the opposition in question time last Thursday.
"And there is a way to go before we have that culture of excellence in the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force."
Our translation: Get it together, Defence.
But a week before that, the Defence Minister was participating in Labor's Medicare bonanza. To mark the service's 40th anniversary, Mr Marles posted an image of himself with two Medicare Urgent Care Clinic teddy bears on February 1. The Medicare anniversary involved cakes, and more cakes, and then there were the bears.
Public Eye does take note of departmental merchandise - you may recall Defence procuring 250 dozen submarine-shaped paperclips, months before its AUKUS briefings. And you know who else appreciates merch? Health boss Blair Comley - according to weekly video updates we unearthed last year. Coincidence? We think not.
Back to the bears: the department purchased 250 of them, at about $15 a piece (the bear bill was $3750 all up).
They're intended to raise awareness of the Albanese government's Urgent Care Clinics - 58 bulk billed clinics across the country for urgent, but non-life threatening issues.
Kind of confusingly, Urgent Care Clinics aren't new clinics set up by the government. They run out of existing GP practices and health centres, which the government has provided extra funding to, so that they can expand bulk billed services.
The bears, which sport white T-shirts with "Medicare Urgent Care Clinic" branding, were released as part of a communication drive from September 2023 to raise awareness of the new clinics. It involved fact-sheets, pop-up stalls and local advertising, in addition to the merch.
Is there a Medicare bear circulating in your agency? Do write in.
Four APS secretaries gathered to watch Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape address the Australian Parliament on Thursday.
Attorney-General's boss Katherine Jones watched from the public gallery alongside Finance's Jenny Wilkinson, Treasury's Steven Kennedy and Foreign Affairs and Trade's Jan Adams.
Somewhat awkwardly, an empty seat separated Ms Adams - who sat with the rest of the agency bosses - from Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell. Public Eye did spot the pair having a chat after the speech though.
Off to the other side of the secretaries was Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw, with a bunch of colleagues.
Dutton's APS mention
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was out and about this week, speaking on the Coalition's decision not "to stand in the way" of the Albanese government's tax package - though the opposition will present its own tax policy by the next federal election.
He also gave the federal public service a mention at his Tuesday press conference: "In administered programs for example, leaving the program funding intact to one side, the Government's spending about $92 billion a year," he said.
"They've increased by 10,000, the number of public servants here in Canberra. There are ways in which you can provide some savings, and that's work that we need to continue."
The Canberra Times asked Mr Dutton's office if that meant the Coalition would consider reducing APS numbers, if they won the election, but did not receive a response.
The Albanese government did increase the Average Staffing Level of the APS by about 10,000 places in the 2023 budget, estimating the 2023-24 ASL at 191,861 places. The ASL - which measures the number of staff by the time they work - is different to an overall headcount, which was 170,332 at June 2023.
It's not possible to say whether the 10,000 places were for the ACT. Canberra does have the largest share of the APS - just over 38 per cent at the last count.
Kershaw's shoutout to Katherine Jones
In some ways, the Australian Federal Police is like the confused child of divorced parents.
Machinery of Government changes have seen the AFP passed back and forth between the Department of Home Affairs and Attorney-General's Department in recent years.
At a committee hearing on Monday, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw, responded to a question on whether the 2022 MoG to AGD had impacted the agency: "We've historically always been in Attorney-General's, there was a time there where we sort of had a Home Affairs construct, but not like the one that we're in," he told senators.
"We're pretty comfortable in any environment, I think for us the AGD lawyers probably understand us at a deeper level, because they've been working with us for many, many years.
"So, from that point of view, it's been really beneficial, but overall I think for us, we're flexible and adaptable."
Commissioner Kershaw said the AFP worked "really well" with Home Affairs on its cyber and counterterrorism functions. "Overall, we don't sort of get too wound up by what portfolio we're in, we just get on with the job, but it's been very good."
And he had a special shoutout for the AGD secretary too: "And Katherine Jones, I've got to give a call out to her, she's a very good secretary, very experienced and very professional, and knows us really well."
FOI tiff over National Cabinet
There's a tiff between Labor and the Coalition brewing over the COAG Legislation Amendment Bill 2023.
The COAG bill affects National Cabinet, and was initially drafted by the Coalition back in 2021.
There was a provision which protected national cabinet from freedom of information requests, in the same way as cabinet is covered.
Labor has reintroduced the legislation, and removed that provision, but the Coalition has in turn sent it off to a Senate committee for further examination, to the irritation of Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Patrick Gorman.
Stay tuned, FOI warriors!
On the agenda
- Senate estimates kicks off for a week on Monday, as both houses continue to sit.
Over to you
- What should we be watching out for in Senate estimates?