Victorian Government reorganises to focus on eight missions

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A new Crisis Council Cabinet and Victorian Public Service re-prioritisation around eight missions are among the Victorian Government response to COVID-19. What does this mean for industry suppliers?

Since declaring a State of Emergency on 16 March, the Victorian Government has mobilised and significantly ‘re-oriented’ as part of the government response to COVID-19.

government response to covid-19

This week, the State of Emergency has been extended another four weeks until midnight 11 May. It will be interesting to see what happens after this point. If the emergency measures are considered to have been somewhat effective, there may be mounting pressure to ease them. However, different powers or a change in legislation will be required if further measures are needed to contain the pandemic.

The Premier also earlier announced the formation of a Crisis Council of Cabinet. Beneath this, departments are being asked to reprioritise their existing activities by identifying what essential services and programs need to continue, and work that can be suspended until further notice.

While not wholly unexpected, this will nevertheless create a lot of flux and uncertainty within the Victorian public sector, including to the departmental operating and program budgets.

Here’s what we know so far about the government response to COVID-19:

Ministerial Responsibilities

The Crisis Council of Cabinet (CCC) is chaired by Premier Daniel Andrews to oversee the government response to COVID-19. It is also the core decision-making body for the government for the period of emergency. New ministerial portfolios relating to the pandemic have also been established, with ministers sworn in on 3 April.

The CCC members include:

  • James Merlino (Education) – Minister for Coordination of Education and Training – COVID-19
  • Tim Pallas (Treasurer) – Minister for Coordination of Treasury and Finance – COVID-19
  • Jacinta Allan (Transport) – Minister for Coordination of Transport – COVID-19
  • Jenny Mikakos (Health) – Minister for Coordination of Health and Human Services – COVID-19
  • Jill Hennessy (Justice) – Minister for Coordination of Justice and Community Safety – COVID-19
  • Martin Pakula (Jobs) – Minister for Coordination of Jobs, Precincts and Regions – COVID-19
  • Lisa Neville (Police) – Minister for Coordination of Environment, Land, Water and Planning – COVID-19

The CCC will operate for six months till 30 September 2020.

While the full Cabinet will continue to meet each week to manage the general business of government, these parallel CCC arrangements likely mean that other Cabinet committees will be on hold or funnelled through to the CCC. This likely means that funding and/or other submissions will have to be developed with the consultation of the portfolio minister and a CCC minister.

New focus on eight missions

The Victorian public service has now pivoted to focus on eight missions to drive the government response to COVID-19. These will be led by a Departmental Secretary reporting to the Premier and the Crisis Council of Cabinet. Associate Secretaries will be appointed to run government departments (‘business as usual’) to enable Departmental Secretaries to focus on the missions they are leading.

These eight missions are:

1. Health Emergency
Lead Secretary: Department of Health and Human Services (Kym Peake)

2. Economic Emergency
Lead Secretary: Department of Treasury and Finance (David Martine)

3. Continuity of Essential Services – People
Lead Secretaries:
Department of Education (Jenny Atta)
Department of Justice and Community Safety (Rebecca Falkingham)

4. Continuity of Essential Services – Economic
Lead Secretaries:
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (John Bradley)
Department of Transport (Paul Younis)

5. Economic Program Delivery, Supply, Logistics and Procurement
Lead Secretary: Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (Simon Phemister)

6. Economic Recovery (Private Sector)
Lead Secretaries:
Department of Treasury and Finance (David Martine)
Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (Simon Phemister)

7. Restoration of Public Services – People
Lead Secretaries:
Department of Education (Jenny Atta)
Department of Justice and Community Safety (Rebecca Falkingham)

8. Restoration of Public Services – Economic (Public Sector)
Lead Secretaries:
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (John Bradley)
Department of Transport (Paul Younis)

The first five missions are related to addressing the current crisis and broadly align with existing departments’ portfolios. The last three missions are related to restoration post-pandemic, including how to ‘restart’ the economy, and the impact on resources and people both in the public and private sectors. It is interesting to note that these missions cross existing departmental boundaries and their work will involve virtual teams and cross-portfolio collaboration. [Edit: These missions were updated in June. See our Government Update here.]

The State Budget, previously expected in May, would have been finalised (if not close to finalised) in late March in preparation for the May Budget announcement. Since the pandemic has disrupted this and delayed the release of the Budget to October, we would expect there will be significant funding announcements aligned the above missions.

Any initiatives or programs that are strongly aligned to these eight missions and their related portfolios will stand a higher chance of being funded.

Mission governance

The leads in each mission will meet collectively as a Mission Coordinating Committee. A Mission Coordinating Unit will also be established in the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) to oversee the entire work program. This will be led by Sam Trobe (former Bill Shorten staffer), who is currently the Executive Director of Justice, Family Violence and Security in DPC.

A Public Sector Administration Committee has also been established and is chaired by DPC Deputy Secretary Jeremi Moule. It will be the primary decision-making forum for Victorian public service whole-of-government matters, including items that would usually go to the Victorian Secretaries Board or the Integrity and Corporate Reform Subcommittee of Cabinet.

What does this mean for suppliers?

To those in the Victorian public service, the reorganisation into eight missions represents a mini Machinery of Government (MoG) change. Public servants are taking on new or additional roles, and departments are being mobilised to deliver cross-departmental outcomes. An ‘Associate Secretary’ position has been created to largely manage the ‘business as usual’ function of a department, while the Secretary is leading one of the missions.

As with any MoG change, there is also a reprioritisation of budget. Many on-foot programs will be put on hold or deferred, while other planned procurements will be delayed to make way for expenditure on mission-related priorities.

However, Government still both needs and wants to continue engaging with business to help it deliver its eight missions – that is, economic development and support of the business sector continues to be a government priority.

There are recommended ways to effectively engage with government, especially at this time. Understand the eight missions and how your product/service aligns with them. Find the right department and then the right person to engage.

Be mindful that the big departments, and those in the midst of responding to this emergency (for example DHHS, DET and DTF), may be reluctant to engage new businesses. To mitigate risk, and to ensure work will be delivered as quickly as possible, they may want to only engage with businesses they have worked with before.

If you are a new business that can support one of these eight missions, think about how you can meet with smaller government agencies or entities (for example a hospital, a local government council, a court), rather than the larger parent departments. However, even if your business has never been engaged with a department, and you have a solution that directly addresses a critical need, they may still want to hear from you.

Enabling programs of work

Finally, there are also two enabling programs of work as part of the government response to COVID-19 that will be focused more broadly on the impact of the current social and economic restrictions, and the long-term risks and opportunities post-pandemic.

1. Behavioural change, social cohesion and communications
DPC Lead:
Deputy Secretary – Governance Policy and Coordination Group (Jeremi Moule)
Deputy Secretary – Fairer Victoria (Brigid Monagle)

2. Critical risks and opportunities
DPC Lead:
Secretary (Chris Eccles)
Supported by a team (yet to be determined)

The scope of these programs of work is not clear yet; but, given the recent announcement into additional funding towards the mental health sector, the government is taking the impact of social distancing on the community seriously.

It will also be interesting to see how else the government will respond to the waterfall effect the pandemic has had, such as renters at risk of becoming homeless, the potential collapse of many small businesses, the economic impact on the international education sector, the readiness of the health sector supply chain, and the regulation and use of police powers.

We will keep you updated when we know more.

 

This article was co-authored by Jade Leong.

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