Treasury was established in 1901 at the time of federation. It has evolved from its traditional role of accounting and budgeting to playing a central role in policy debate. Sir Roland Wilson was the first economics trained secretary in 1951 and over the course of the 1950s and 1960s the department transformed into a central economic policy institution, bringing what would now be called a whole-of-government, whole-of-economy perspective to policy analysis and advice. Since that time, the department has continued to transform to encompass a broader role and skillset while maintaining its economics’ underpinnings.
Treasury’s mission is to ‘improve the wellbeing of the Australian people by providing sound and timely policy advice to the Government, based on objective and thorough analysis of options, and by assisting Treasury Ministers in the administration of their responsibilities and the implementation of Government decisions’.
The Wellbeing Framework
In undertaking its mission, Treasury takes a broad view of wellbeing as primarily reflecting a person’s substantive freedom to lead a life they have reason to value. This view encompasses more than is directly captured by commonly used measures of economic activity.
Treasury has identified five dimensions that affect or relate to wellbeing. It considers these in forming policy advice. The dimensions are:
- set of opportunities available to people
- distribution of those opportunities across the Australian people
- sustainability of those opportunities over time
- overall level and allocation of risk borne by individuals and the community
- complexity of choices facing individuals and the community.
Treasury uses this Wellbeing Framework to provide a common language for all Treasury staff and to assist staff in understanding the underlying trade-offs in developing public policy and applying a broader public policy approach than the constraints of more traditional economic thinking would provide.
Treasury has four departmental objectives in place to achieve its mission. These are to:
- promote a sound macroeconomic environment by monitoring and assessing economic conditions and prospects both in Australia and overseas, and provide advice on macroeconomic policy including fiscal and monetary policy
- promote effective government spending arrangements that contribute to overall fiscal outcomes, influence strong sustainable economic growth and improve the wellbeing of Australians
- develop effective taxation and retirement income arrangements consistent with the Government’s reform priorities
- ensure well-functioning markets by providing advice on policies that promote competitive, efficient markets and that work to enhance consumer and investor wellbeing, a secure financial system and sound corporate practices, and foreign investment consistent with Australia’s national interest.
While Treasury has maintained the same broad objectives over the last few decades—a sound macroeconomic environment, effective government spending, effective taxation arrangements and well-functioning markets—the expectations around its role have evolved over time. This includes:
- The need to provide advice and support a growing number of Treasury Ministers as well as other senior ministers on key government policy priorities. Until 1996, Treasury served no more than two ministers (Treasury did this with around 500 Treasury officers). Currently there are four Treasury Ministers, down from five under the previous government. Staff numbers are now around 930.
- An expansion of demands and responsibilities including consideration of new issues, and associated depth of required analysis, as a central policy agency within the policy design and implementation processes of the government.
- The requirement to work closely with other government agencies to develop policy options and consider implementation plans on issues not previously addressed by Treasury.
- A central role in new financing arrangements and architecture between the Australian Government and the states and territories, including the development of agreement and partnership arrangements.
- The need to undertake more extensive community and business consultations.
- The need to respond to an increasing demand for international engagement, especially through the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (G20).
- Increased involvement in the implementation of legislative measures and strategic projects.
Key performance indicators
Treasury has four key performance indicators, which are outlined in its annual report and Portfolio Budget Statements:
- Advice: Advice that meets the Government’s needs in administering its responsibilities and making and implementing decisions. Advice is timely, of high quality, and based on an objective and thorough understanding of issues and a whole-of-government perspective. The degree of client satisfaction with the quality and timeliness of the advice provided is assessed through feedback mechanisms.
- Budget: Timely, high-quality, accurate and transparent Budget, Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook and Final Budget Outcome documents that meet the expectations of the Government, the Parliament and the public. The budget preparation and coordination process is subject to an annual evaluation.
- Published reports: Published reports and other information that stimulate and inform government and public debate through robust analysis, modelling and research. Publications are timely, of high quality and widely available to the public.
- Legislation: Legislation progressed by Treasury is in accordance with the principles of good law design and is delivered according to government priorities.
Departmental and management structure
Treasury comprises five groups:
- Macroeconomic Group (165 staff)
- Fiscal Group (117.8 staff)
- Revenue Group (218.7 staff)
- Markets Group (173.5 staff)
- Corporate Strategy and Services Group (209.3 staff).
The management structure is determined by the Treasury Management Model. This five-level structure comprises: the Secretary, Executive Directors (Senior Executive Service (SES) Band 3), General Managers (SES Band 1 or 2), Unit Managers (SES Band 1 or EL2) and Unit Members (APS/EL 1—Australian Public Service/Executive Level). A stream of advisers sits within this structure—Chief Advisers (SES Band 2), Principal Advisers (SES Band 1), and Senior Advisers (EL2). As an integral part of the department’s staff development process, Treasury undertakes regular transfer rounds within the department. This supports the development of well-rounded Treasury officers (often referred to internally as ‘generalists’ or ‘sequential specialists’) who have built expertise in the application of their skills to different policy and decision environments.
Key workforce statistics as at 30 June 2013:
- Treasury has 896.5 ongoing full-time equivalent (FTE) (down from 941.6 in 2012) including 13.2 per cent part-time FTE (up from 10.9 per cent in 2012).
- Treasury comprises 47.7 per cent female staff and 52.3 per cent male staff.
- Female representation at the SES level is 24.4 per cent and male representation is 75.6 per cent.
- On average over 2001–2013, graduates came from these disciplines: economics (50.5 per cent), commerce/ business/finance (46 per cent), law (30.1 per cent), other/arts (33 per cent) and quantitative (16.4 per cent).
- The average age of Treasury staff is 37.5 years.
- The average length of time staff spend at Treasury is approximately five years and the attrition rate is 9.2 per cent (down from 11.8 per cent in 2012).
 Percentages do not sum to 100 as most graduates studied more than one discipline.