One slightly overlooked aspect of the federal budget last week was a massive $500 million given to the Department of Finance for “transforming the public sector”. It came up briefly in a Senate estimates hearing last week, with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann unable to explain exactly what the money is for. He said it was a “funding envelope” to invest in “specific initiatives” to help agencies transform and “unlock efficiencies”. When pushed as to what exactly that entailed, Cormann said it was too early to say:

“When it comes to the decision of the government to extend the efficiency dividend and to reinvest a proportion of that into the modernisation and transformation of the public sector, including to unlock the digital dividend that we believe is available, as I have said to you openly and transparently, that is something that we expect to take effect from 1 July 2017. That is what it shows in the budget measure. There is a body of work to be done between now and then. We are very confident that it can and will be done, that it will be done competently and effectively and that it will help to transform and modernise the public service so that it continues to deliver the high-quality advice to government and high-quality service to the community that the federal public service is known for.”

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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