Australian Public Service recruitment ‘too Canberra-centric’ as leaders consider allowing staff to live elsewhere

The federal bureaucracy is over-reliant on Canberra for its workforce and needs to base more staff outside the national capital, a government report says.

The Australian Public Service (APS) is in the midst of a recruitment crisis, heightened by the ACT’s extremely low unemployment rate, which is trending at 3 percent.

While only 38 percent of the APS’s 160,000 employees work in the capital, it is home to the vast majority of senior executives and political workers.

However, a group of government department heads say this “Canberra-centric” approach to staffing is undermining the APS.

They are preparing a location strategy, parts of which are detailed in the latest State of the Service Report.

That report says basing more senior jobs in Canberra discourages a wider search for the best candidate.

This poses “significant risk in attracting and retaining the right workforce skills and capabilities”, it says.

“As a consequence … recruitment does not target in-demand occupations where they are located (that is, in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland).

“This means the APS is missing out on opportunities to source talent, especially for in-demand occupations.”

A Public Service Commission spokesperson told the ABC the COVID-19 pandemic had “demonstrated our ability to work well at all levels from dispersed locations”.

“This includes performing all types of work, including political officers.”

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