Friday, October 02, 2015

What's the vision for the Australian Government?

It's expected these days for both corporations and government agencies to have vision and mission statements which encapsulate the change they wish to create through their existence and how they intend to create it.

Notable statements include  Microsoft's new mission, "to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more" and Amazon's vision "to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online."

Some corporations ascribe to a longer vision, such as Apple, where Tim Cook outlined the following vision and mission for the company when speaking with investors,

"We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that's not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don't settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we're wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well."

Government agencies can be equally concise and visionary in their statements. For example the Australian Department of Education's vision statement is "opportunity through learning" and the Digital Transition Office's website is structured around it's vision and mission "Work on stuff that matters. Simpler, clearer, faster, more humane public services."

Others are more self-focused albeit still visionary in nature, such as the Australian Department of Social Services "We aspire to be Australia’s pre-eminent social policy agency. Our mission is to improve the lifetime wellbeing of people and families in Australia." or the Australian Department of Finance and Deregulation's "Finance supports the government’s ongoing priorities through the Budget process and fosters leading practice through the public sector resource management, governance and accountability frameworks. Finance plays a lead role in advising the government on many of its strategic priorities, including advancing public sector reform through the Smaller Government Agenda and providing advice to the government on optimal arrangements for the management and ownership of public assets. We do this through our professional and considered approach to providing advice, developing policy, delivering services and engaging with our clients and stakeholders."

However the Australian Government as a whole doesn't really have a vision or a mission.

True there's the Australian Constitution, however this is all about the functions of the Commonwealth government and provides no statements on why the government exists or what it is there to achieve for citizens.

There's also codes of conduct for public servants, which outline how they are expected to behave and interact, both within the workplace and the community.

There's elected political parties, who bring ideologically-driven points of view and policies on how the Australian government is to carry out its functions, sometimes with a future vision of how they wish Australia to look.

None of these, however, clearly defines a vision and a mission as to why we have a government for Australia or what the government is there to achieve for Australian society and citizens.

Perhaps creating and striving towards such a vision might help with culture change in the public service and in reshaping public, political and media views of government - defining why it exists not simply what it does.

Such a vision could help align the public service around some of the big goals of today - remaining relevant and effective in how they meet the needs of citizens and support Australia's continued success.

It's only my idea, but perhaps a vision might shift the needle in the way public servants think about why and how they serve governments and the public, encouraging them towards a more citizen-centric inclusive focus, changing attitudes towards openness, civility and risk taking (all of which are in short supply in some agencies).

A simple vision statement would suffice - something like "The Australian government exists to ensure Australians can live in freedom, safety and security, able to meet their needs and attain their dreams in a equitable and fair society that leaves no-one behind".

I'll open the topic for discussion - does the Australian Government need a single vision and mission to define its purpose?

And if so, what should it say?


  1. While I like your statement, the words reflect political views and would never pass. It needs to be more general and neutral.

    I think the American's got it right for all governments: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Super a powerful statement. But to encapsulate what you said in addition to the above, in an Australian way and in the concise way you refer to -- maybe you could say this: "to give a fair go".

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