This Research Report has three elements. The first involves a review of some of the theories of organisational participation. The second involves an examination of the factors determining the unique pattern of the development of employee participation and industrial democracy in Australia in general and in the Australian public sector in particular. The third involves an examination of the implementation of industrial democracy in the Australian Public Service and an appraisal of the factors likely to determine its future development.
In a recent paper, Julian Teicher (1989) stated that although there has been a widespread tendancy to regard employee participation as having limited application in the public sector this has certainly not been the case in Australia. However, to my knowledge, at this point in time, there has not been any examination of the success of Australia's first experiment with a legislatively based scheme of industrial democracy such as that introduced in the Australian Public Service.
Although this Research Report focuses on the Australian Public Service experience, it tries to place this firmly within the context of organisational participation theory and the application of employee participation and industrial democracy in Australia. For this reason considerable attention was given, in the early sections of the Report, to the theory and its application in the Australian context.
The analysis of the implementation of industrial democracy in the Australian Public Service reveals a number of weaknesses which appear likely to frustrate the achievement of the Government's policy and its objectives. Some of this is directly due to the Goverment's own actions. Nonetheless, I think it is possible to conclude that the experiment has been a partial success. What remains to be determined is whether the gains of the last four years will be sustained, and whether appropriate participation by all staff will eventually become an integral part of Australian Public Service administration, or whether it will merely become part of its unique industrial relations system.