Scott Morrison to map out overhaul of public service while Josh Frydenberg will promise banking changes before end of year
The Morrison government will define its plans to reform the public sector by focusing on service delivery to middle Australians and set out a timetable for banking and financial sector reforms in two major speeches on Monday.
Scott Morrison, speaking to Institute of Public Administration ahead of the Thodey public service review being handed to government, will suggest that the “trust deficit” in politics is worst among middle-income Australians and call for greater use of corporate skills and diversity of viewpoints in the public service.
Josh Frydenberg, speaking to the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, will promise one third of government commitments arising from the banking and financial services royal commission will be implemented or before parliament by the year’s end, with legislation for all recommendations to be introduced by the end of 2020.
The first legislation – to be introduced by year’s end – will include bills to introduce a duty on mortgage brokers to act in clients’ best interests, apply consumer protection rules to funeral expenses policies, and apply unfair contract laws to insurance contracts.
Morrison’s speech, seen by Guardian Australia, takes up the thread of his claim to respect the public service’s professionalism while demanding that once the government sets its policy direction he “expects them to get on and deliver it”.
Morrison suggests his government ministers “must not allow a policy leadership vacuum to be created, expecting the public service to fill it and do their job” and warns public servants that they must be “an enabler of government policy not an obstacle”.
The prime minister will urge the public sector to prioritise service delivery for “quiet Australians” who are not represented in Canberra by “vested and organised interests” such as corporations or the social services sector, which has been a persistent critic of the Coalition’s unwillingness to raise unemployment benefits.
“There is strong evidence that the ‘trust deficit’ that has afflicted many Western democracies over recent years stems in part from a perception that politics is very responsive to those at the top and those at the bottom, but not so much to those in the middle,” Morrison says.
“This will not be the case under my government. Middle Australia needs to know that the government (including the public service) is on their side.”
“We need to find new ways for smart, dedicated Australians to make a contribution to public service, to see a stint in the public service as part of their career journey.”
Morrison says he values the diversity of the public service as a reflection of Australia’s pluralistic society – but lists only “diversity of viewpoints” as a point for potential improvement. He claims that – like the university sector – the public service risks a “trend towards conformity” and “stale conventional wisdoms and orthodoxies”.
Frydenberg, the treasurer and deputy Liberal leader, will commit to a series of interim targets for implementation of financial sector reform, including the promise that more than 20 commitments will have been implemented or before parliament by the end of the year and more than 50 – or almost 90% – by mid 2020.
Frydenberg said the timetable “represents an unprecedented response” given the “scale and complexity” of recommendations from the Hayne royal commission and related commitments.
“It demonstrates the government’s commitment to strengthening consumer protection laws and empowering Australia’s financial regulators to enforce the law.”
By comparison, he said it “took almost 23 months” for the future of financial advice reforms to be introduced after a major parliamentary report to government.
The Coalition will give an extra $9.3m to the treasury and the office of parliamentary counsel to prepare the reforms, on top of $12.1m in the 2019 budget.
“It is anticipated that giving effect to the implementation plan will take up 75% of treasury’s legislative agenda over the next year with the treasury legislative program typically representing 25% of the total government legislative program.”