It may no longer be just a company town, but there is no doubt that when the Public Service thrives, so does Canberra.
So the Federal Budget funding to increase APS staffing will add up to an ACT economy that will continue to perform well. It will be welcomed by everyone from the ACT Chief Minister down to the small businesses that enjoy the flow-on effects.
Average Staffing Levels will rise across almost all departments and agencies as the government gears up to support the economic recovery and the ongoing measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, APS jobs will rise by 5,364 in 2021-22 to 174,276, with Health and associated agencies to gain more than 1,000 extra positions. The extra staff will deliver the COVID-19 vaccination program rollout, support the government’s response to the Aged Care Royal Commission and reform mental health.
Home Affairs and its agencies will also prosper with about 1,400 more jobs, including to support the establishment of the Office of the Special Investigator to assess and examine the findings of the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force’s Afghanistan Inquiry.
But Social Services and associated agencies, including Services Australia, will shrink by more than 600 positions as pandemic supports scale back. However, more staff will support initiatives to reduce violence against women and children and strengthen programs such as the Cashless Welfare program and the National Redress Scheme.
Other increases will be in the Education, Skills and Employment portfolio to aid job seekers and in Veterans’ Affairs to establish and support the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.
There will also be more jobs to establish new Commonwealth agencies, including the Australian Climate Service and the National Recovery and Resilience Agency.
While this reflects the government’s new expansionist approach, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham says some of the increases will be short-term.
“ASL [average staffing level] increases in the short term reflect major efforts to address an unusual convergence of health, economic and social challenges,” he said.
“Sustainment of some of this additional ASL will continue to be required over much of the forward estimates. However, recent growth is expected to moderate as the economy continues to recover and grow, while the continued investment in digital capabilities will support further ASL prioritisation in future years.”
The public servants union said that while the jobs increase was welcome, it restores less than half of the over 13,000 jobs that the government has cut since it was first elected.
“Before the Budget, we heard a lot from Treasurer Frydenberg about increasing services and investing in the community to stimulate our economy, but tonight [11 May] they are cutting 800 jobs from Services Australia and Centrelink,” said CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly.
“At a time when the community has never relied on Centrelink and Services Australia more, they are cutting the very services people need.”
The union said the government should employ the 25,000 labour-hire workers who serve the public via expensive and ineffective contract arrangements to deliver better services with more employees at the same cost.
“For those hundreds of thousands of Australians still recovering from this crisis, these cuts mean that you will continue to face long call queues when calling Centrelink and more unanswered calls,” Ms Donnelly said.