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Rosemary Huxtable PSM

Global and domestic uncertainties continued in 2020–21, with the Government's economic recovery efforts following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting all Australians and every aspect of government. The Department of Finance maintained a strong focus on, and support to, our portfolio ministers, government entities, partners and stakeholders to design and deliver critical response and recovery measures.

Our role in managing the Commonwealth’s finances and the Budget focus on sustaining Australia’s economic recovery has been critical in supporting the Government’s response to COVID-19. A busy year that included delivering two Commonwealth budgets highlighted the importance of our role in advising on government expenditure and maintaining our stewardship in public sector resourcing. We emerged with increased resilience, positioning the Department well to respond effectively to future challenges.

Through effective strategic planning and investment in cooperative partnerships, we continued to provide high-quality and timely support to the Government, parliament, the Australian Public Service (APS), businesses and the Australian community in a rapidly changing environment. We worked in partnership with our stakeholders, supporting them to deliver on their objectives for the Government. This included assisting Services Australia with the Government's Disaster Recovery Payment for flood relief, working collaboratively across the APS, supporting APS flexibility through the GovTEAMS digital collaboration platform and establishing networks to grow capacity and capability in alignment with the APS Workforce Strategy 2025.

The APS support of Australia’s COVID-19 response and recovery continued through 2020–21 and will remain a major contributing factor in shaping the context in which the public service operates. Examples of where Finance was involved in broader APS support included assisting the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce, the Australian Taxation Office with the delivery of COVID-related stimulus measures and working with state governments to plan and deliver national purpose-built quarantine facilities on behalf of the Australian Government.

Finance responded strongly to the broader APS response effort while maintaining our focus on our core work program, delivering on key priorities and implementing improvements and innovation through a broad range of projects across our operations. This has ensured we are well positioned to continue to deliver on our commitment to be a high-performing, modern and efficient public sector organisation.

This year, we continued to leverage the Property Services Governance Network to drive efficiencies and inform strategic property decisions. In response to COVID-19, we worked with the Network and Property Service Providers in facilitating rapid responses to emerging property issues.

We maintained our focus on enhancing advice to government on Commonwealth investments. Since the launch of the Commonwealth Investment Framework (CIF), capital markets and the Government’s fiscal position have significantly changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are supporting agencies to consider the benefits of commercial financing and to create opportunities for private sector partnerships in delivering government priorities. Finance also rapidly implemented a Rent Relief Policy to support small and medium-sized enterprises and not-for-profit occupants, providing some financial relief during this difficult time.

In 2020–21, we continued to refine our governance arrangements to ensure a shared focus on departmental priorities and resource allocation, and support timely, evidence-based decision-making across our operations. Capitalising on lessons learned in recent years, we refined our focus on strategic, long-term objectives as part of our commitment to integrated business planning. In 2021, Finance established the People Committee and the Major Investments Committee. Our people are our greatest asset and their development and wellbeing are key priorities for the Department and the focus of the People Committee. The Major Investments Committee ensures the effective management of Finance’s infrastructure, assets and a forward investment plan to ensure they meet our needs now and in the future.

It has been a challenging but successful year for the Department. Working together and with our partners across the APS, we rose to every challenge. Our values and our commitment to continued improvements—in the Department, in the wider APS, and in our relationships with Government Business Enterprises (GBEs) and other stakeholders—remained front of mind.