The Commonwealth Government is launching a new services agency, Service Australia, modelled on the NSW State Government’s Service NSW.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed the plan for Services Australia on Sunday in a surprise announcement which may challenge the role of current agency charged with supporting IT and digital service delivery, The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA).
Morrison said he wants Service Australia to make dealing with government “much easier” adding the new agency will be charged with advising on IT and applications – both current responsibilities of the DTA.
“There are services [Australians] rely on and we want them to access those services, as easily as they can and in as informed a way as possible. It’s also about driving better use of information technology and apps that can assist Australians to better access services they need.”
Leading the new initiative, as part of his National Disability and Insurance Scheme and Government Services portfolio is Stuart Robert. The former Assistant Treasurer faced scrutiny last year when Fairfax revealed he was charging taxpayers $2,00 per month for home internet. Robert, who has been promoted in Morrison’s latest cabinet reshuffle, had regularly claimed around $1,000 per month on home internet and blamed the overspend on “connectivity issues”.
The Gold Coast MP, who ran an IT services firm before being elected as an LNP member in 2007, will now be responsible for driving “greater efficiencies and integration of government service delivery and making best use of technology and digital applications,” according to the Prime Minister.
The Coalition government will cut a further $1.5 billion from the public service to pay for its recent election promises in a move that could reduce jobs by 3,000, according to The Community and Public Sector Union. Those costings were delivered before the Service Australia announcement and it is not yet clear how much Service Australia will cost.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet did not responded directly to Which-50’s questions on costings and referred questions on the role of the DTA to the agency itself.
A spokesperson from the DTA said, “Details about the role of the DTA and Services Australia is a matter for Government and will be defined in the Administrative Arrangements Order.”
Morrison said he was a fan of Service NSW, joining others in the industry who have singled out the digital first whole of government services department.
“Services Australia will pick up it’s lead from a similar organisation established by the New South Wales Government called Services New South Wales, which I think has been a very important reform in New South Wales and made dealing with government much easier,” Morrison said.
“That’s what we want government to be for Australians, we just want it to be much easier.”
Launched in 2014, Service NSW created a one stop shop for state government services, bringing together RMS; Births, Deaths and Marriages; and small business support.
Service NSW CEO, Damon Rees has indicated a more streamlined, cross border approach is necessary for government services in Australia, including more collaboration with the federal government. But Rees told ZDNet in 2017 that he didn’t see a need for an agency like Service Australia.
“Should there be a Service Australia? The positive with doing something at a national level is that you have consistency and maybe arguably efficiency, but the risk of doing something at a national level is that you get further and further away from the individual requirements of the customers.”