Efficiency and equity in Australian Government employment

The New Public Management (NPM) is the label applied to a literature which posits the need to recast the management of public bureaucracies on the lines of business enterprises. This approach has been adopted across the Australian public sector including the Australian Public Service (APS). While the roots of reform here can be traced back to the 1975 Report of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration (RCAGA), the reform process has been concentrated on the period since 1983 and has accelerated since the election of a Liberal-National Party government in 1996. This paper sets out the key principles of NPM and spells out their predicted implications for the employment relationship. It then examines the APS reform process in terms of the precepts of NPM before considering the implications of these reforms for the employment relationship. We conclude on the available but limited evidence that there are significant centralist deviations from the NPM model and that in the more recent period of reform increasing emphasis has been placed on efficiency at the expense of equity.