Organisational capability

​At 30 June 2014, the department employed 3998.3 full-time equivalent staff, including policy officers, programme administrators, scientists, economists, accountants, ICT staff, meat inspectors, veterinary officers, biosecurity officers and survey staff. Our staff operated in capital cities and regional offices, major airports, mail centres, ports, laboratories and abattoirs. Around 58 per cent of our Australian-based staff worked outside Canberra, undertaking primarily biosecurity-related and levies collection activities.

Staff also worked in Bangkok, Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Jakarta, New Delhi, Rome, Seoul, Tokyo and Washington to maintain relationships with trading partners and international organisations.

We revised our People Strategy in 2013 to include more concise and high-level departmental priorities, which focus on six issues:

  • strengthening work health and safety systems to reduce injuries
  • fostering a culture of attendance
  • enhancing our performance management processes
  • developing and implementing a new enterprise agreement that allows for the flexible deployment of staff to meet future requirements
  • identifying and developing a skilled, diverse and capable workforce that supports the organisation in meeting its priorities
  • maintaining a workplace that is free from fraud and corruption.
Table 19 Staff (headcount) by location and classification at 30 June 2014
APS426991168157328236911 106
Total 1 943 309 662 579 822 52 228 11 15 4 621

Note: Headcount includes staff on leave without pay. The department's Secretary is excluded from this data.

Table 20 Employment type (headcount)
at 30 June 2013 and 30 June 2014
Ongoing employee full time3 4843 872
Ongoing employee part time823908
Non-ongoing employee full time3798
Non-ongoing employee part time518
Non-ongoing employee casual272284
Total 4 621 5 180

Note: Headcount includes staff on leave without pay. The department's Secretary is excluded from this data.


Staff feedback

In May 2014, we again participated in the Australian Public Service Commission's (APSC) State of the Service employee census, which enables the department to collect feedback to support our People Strategy and develop plans and initiatives to address specific workforce issues.

Around 75 per cent of our staff participated in the 2013 census, making us one of the top 10 large agencies for response rates. The 2013 results were generally positive overall, and the department achieved modest improvements against all key engagement metrics. These results were on par, and in some instances better, than the Australian Public Service (APS) average. The results showed the majority (74 per cent) of staff were proud to work in the department and 80 per cent enjoyed working in their current job.

The 2013 census showed we could still improve in some areas. These areas included leadership, dealing with underperformance, managing change, addressing bullying and harassment and improving internal communication. We used the results from the census to help shape our priorities and further refine our People Strategy Action Plan. This built on strategies implemented following the 2012 survey. Initiatives implemented in 2013–14 included:

  • enhancing our Supervisor Management Development Programme
  • launching a Senior Executive Service (SES) Leadership Development Programme
  • applying the department's programme and project management framework to improve our organisational change management
  • developing eLearning packages on the Code of Conduct, and bullying and harassment.

Developing our people

Our 'Uphold Values and Principles of Public Service' eLearning module, developed in consultation with the APSC, was launched in June 2013. More than 50 Government agencies are now using this module, which has reduced duplication and delivered savings across the APS.

We implemented a mandatory eLearning policy that requires all employees to complete this module and others on work health and safety, privacy principles, diversity, security, fraud and corruption, and fire and emergency evacuation instruction.

We continued to populate our online Learning Management System and 37 eLearning courses are now available to our staff. These include enhanced Biosecurity Fundamentals training, with new modules on national border surveillance and making good decisions.

As an example of another staff development activity, six employees participated in the Cattle Council of Australia Rural Awareness Tour in 2014. The tour gave participants a hands-on experience of the beef cattle industry and an understanding of the effects of Government policy. Participants explored the red meat supply chain, visiting cattle properties, sale yards, feedlots, abattoirs and red meat distributors in Western Australia.

Fostering leadership

In June 2013, we launched our SES Leadership Development Programme. The programme ran for 12 months and provided a blended learning approach, combining face-to-face workshops, individual coaching sessions and using behavioural profile tools.

To further support our leadership capability, we also launched an EL2 Talent Development Programme. The programme ran for 10 months and gave participants access to development opportunities including observer roles on the department's executive committees and contributing to an identified departmental strategic project.

The Emerging Leaders Programme equipped our middle managers during 2013–14 with additional skills and tools to perform their duties. Fifty employees have now completed the programme and been awarded a Diploma in Government.

The department continues to provide opportunities to participate in significant external leadership programmes. In 2013-14, staff participated in the APSC Career Development Assessment Centre, the Cranlana programme, the National Security College, the Leading Australia's Future in the Asia-Pacific programme, and the Australian Rural Leadership Programme.

Recruiting people

In February 2014, 27 graduates joined our department through the Graduate Development Programme and the ABARES Entry Level Professional Programme. Graduates undertake training and development to prepare them for a career within the department and the broader APS. Graduates also undertake a major project that involves a one-week industry visit. This gives them an opportunity to develop and refine their project management and stakeholder engagement skills.

We continued to focus on recruiting a more diverse workforce, including by taking part in Indigenous employment programmes for cadets, trainees and graduates. In July 2013 and February 2014, we also welcomed six interns through the Australian Network on Disability's 'Stepping Into...' disability internship programme.


In 2013-14, the department's separation rate for ongoing employees was 12.6 per cent. In November 2013, the department announced a voluntary redundancy programme to reduce staffing numbers, following consideration of the budget and low levels of natural attrition. Approximately 67 per cent of separations during 2013–14 were associated with this programme.

Table 21 Separations 2011–12 to 2013–14
Number of ongoing employees4 3074 7804 758
Total separations542301565
% separating (the department)12.66.311.9
% separating (APS average)No data a6.3 b6.6 c

a The figure for the 2013–14 APS average is not yet available. b State of the service series 2012–13. c State of the service series 2011-12. The department's Secretary is excluded from this data.

Managing performance

We developed an enhanced performance management model for all non-SES staff, which will assess performance across four balanced themes: productivity; participation; development; and communication. It features a simplified online format and emphasises the importance of an ongoing dialogue about performance throughout the year beyond the three formal appraisal points in the cycle. The new model will apply from 2014–15.

We also refined the Performance Partnerships training programme to sharpen our managers' skills in communicating effectively with their teams to build a high-performance culture.

Table 22 Performance pay received in 2013-14 as assessed on 2012–13 performance
ClassificationNo. of staff receiving performance payAggregated amount awarded to classificationsAverage performance paymentRange of performance payments
APS61$2 649.45$2 649.45$2 649.45
EL12$10 346.90$5 173.45$4 252.04–$6 094.86
EL29$56 079.72$6 231.08$3 961.59–$10 564.24
Total 12 $69 076.07 $5 756.34 $2 649.45–$10 564.24

Note: Performance pay provisions are only available to employees with a valid Australian Workplace Agreement in place. In 2013–14, the department had 12 staff with an Australian Workplace Agreement. Performance pay arrangements are not available through the department's enterprise agreement.

Rewarding people

The 100 Women in Australian Agribusiness project was launched in 2013 to celebrate and promote the success of women in agriculture. Ms Roxy Auld from our Agricultural Productivity Division was recognised as one of these 100 women in March 2014.

As part of the Australia Day Awards 2014, we awarded 40 achievement awards, 16 innovation awards and one diversity award to individuals and teams. Recipients' achievements included the:

  • safe evacuation of staff and animals after a bush fire threatened the Byford Quarantine Facility in Western Australia
  • development of the Farm Finance Concessional Loans Scheme
  • detection of a significant quantity of illegal narcotics being imported into Australia
  • biosecurity control and eradication of the chocolate banded snail at Flinders Adelaide Container terminal.

In February 2014, we presented 254 length-of-service awards to employees who have been with the department for 10, 20, 30 and 40-plus years.

We relaunched our Development Grants as the Secretary's Development Awards, which included the Secretary's Indigenous Awards. This gave the programme a higher profile and better aligned its activities to the department's priority areas.

Ten employees received awards aligned with these priority areas: Australia in the Asian Century; service delivery within government; foot-and-mouth disease; fisheries management; agricultural productivity; and animal welfare.

Building a diverse workforce

In November 2013, we released our Diversity Strategy and Action Plan 2013–16. The plan continues our commitment to attracting, recruiting and retaining a skilled, diverse and capable workforce, as well as to cultivate a supportive workplace environment that encourages and engages in diversity.

The plan maintains our goal of increasing our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employee representation to 3 per cent of the total workforce by 2015. In 2014, we passed the milestone of 2 per cent.

Our workplace diversity activities during the year included:

  • implementing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy and Action Plan
  • launching eLearning modules on workplace diversity issues
  • developing a DVD showcasing the work of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees
  • celebrating NAIDOC Week, International Day of People with a Disability, the National Multicultural Festival, National Families Week and International Women's Day.
Table 23 Representation of diversity groups (headcount) at 30 June 2014 and 30 June 2013
FemaleNon-English speaking backgroundPeople with disabilityAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Meat Inspectors 1-4443333
Total 2 181 2 439 305 327 80 91 90 96
% of all staff 47.2 47.1 6.6 6.3 1.7 1.8 1.9 1.9

Notes: Headcount includes staff on leave without pay. These figures are based on all female employees and employees who identify themselves as members of one or more

Table 24 Staff age profile by classification (headcount) at 30 June 2014
APS4521351451611681341599143181 106
Meat Inspectors
Total 5 106 431 598 674 630 577 679 511 253 157 4 621

Note: Headcount includes staff on leave without pay. a APS 1 includes Indigenous Cadets. The department's Secretary is excluded from this data.


A new enterprise agreement

Our enterprise agreement covers all non-SES employees engaged by the department under the Public Service Act 1999. In May 2014, the department issued the Notice of Employee Representational Rights seeking bargaining representatives. In June 2014, the department commenced the negotiation process to develop a new enterprise agreement.

Reducing unplanned absences

The 2012-13 State of the Service report found the department had the third-highest rate of unscheduled absences for large agencies and ninth-highest across all agencies. The unplanned absence rate for the department was 15.0 days per full-time equivalent (FTE), compared to the median absence rate of 11.6 days across all APS agencies. This was a decrease on the previous year's figure of 15.2 days per FTE, against the trend across the APS, where the median absence rate rose 0.5 days.

The department has dedicated a small number of staff to better support managers and employees in areas where absence levels are higher. We have introduced People Services coaches in each region, to provide hands-on advice and support for senior staff to reduce absenteeism in high-use areas.

We are focusing on improving health and safety performance, as compensation leave accounts for a large proportion of unscheduled absences (13 per cent). This reflects the physically demanding nature of many regional jobs and workplaces in the department. For example, many employees work in abattoirs, docks and airports, or undertake surveillance activities in remote areas of Australia.

Reducing work health and safety incidences

We continued to invest in additional rehabilitation resources to provide early intervention for injured or ill employees, and to reduce the cost and impact of work-related injuries and illness. The department also reinvested some compensation savings into additional work health and safety resources. We aim to reduce the number of safety incidents and the number of employees suffering work-related injuries or illness.

We prioritised completing the safety management system, a nationally consistent, systematic and verifiable framework for ensuring the health and safety of all departmental workers and visitors. This addresses a recommendation from an April 2013 Comcare audit on implementing this system to improve safety performance.

We upgraded the incident and hazard reporting system to enable the department to more effectively identify and address potential hazards and risks. We also developed new instructional material and training to build the capability and competency of all employees and managers to identify safety hazards and manage the associated risks to acceptable levels.

As shown in Table 25, one outcome of this work has been an increase in reports of dangerous incidents, showing an improved understanding across the department about the incident reporting requirements.

Table 25 Reported serious personal injuries, prescribed incapacities and dangerous incidents to employees
Serious personal injuries a56
Dangerous incidents b2212

a Serious personal injury means that a person needs emergency treatment by a doctor, treatment in a hospital as a casualty (with or without being admitted to the hospital), or admission to hospital. b Dangerous incidents are 'near misses' that could have, but did not, result in death, serious personal injury or incapacity.

Table 26 Investigations, directions and notices under WHS legislation
Provisional improvement notices
Directions or notices

Further workplace relations information

Senior executive remuneration policy

The Prime Minister determines the secretary's remuneration and other conditions, as specified under the Public Service Act 1999. The secretary determines the remuneration for the department's SES officers under section 24 (1) of the Act, with regard to the APSC's annual APS Remuneration Survey.

The department's remuneration policy allows variation in remuneration between individual jobs, based on market and work-value considerations. This enables us to compete effectively for the best people in the employment market.

Non-salary benefits

Non-salary benefits provided to SES officers as part of their remuneration package include superannuation and car parking. Non-salary benefits provided to non-SES officers as part of their remuneration package are generally limited to superannuation.

Table 27 Employment contractual arrangements at 30 June 2014
Contractual arrangementNumber of employees under contract
Enterprise Agreement4 502
s.24(1) determinations79
Common law contracts
Individual flexibility arrangements a28
Non-SES Australian Workplace Agreements a12
Total 4 621

a Employees on Non-SES Australian Workplace Agreements or with individual flexibility arrangements are employed under the department's enterprise agreement. However, they are not included in the Enterprise Agreement figure as this would inflate total staffing figures.

Table 28 Department salary structure at 30 June 2014
ClassificationSalary range
APS6 a$77,602–$109,584
EL2 b$113,671–$146,971
SES c$183,485–$321,536

Note: Remuneration negotiated through Australian Workplace Agreements or individual flexibility arrangements can exceed the salary ranges for non-SES classifications.a Positions requiring mandatory veterinary qualifications can access paypoints between $92 404–$109 584. b Positions requiring mandatory veterinary or scientific qualifications can access paypoints between $134 497–$146 971. c SES salaries are determined on a case-by-case basis.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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