10 May 2023

Pocock says budget boost for APS isn't the government looking after Canberra

| Chris Johnson
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Karen Middleton and ACT Senator David Pocock

ACT Senator David Pocock on the budget breakfast panel, with journalist Karen Middleton facilitating. Photo: Supplied.

Independent senator for the ACT David Pocock says the Federal Government can’t righty describe budget measures aimed at boosting the Australian Public Service in terms of looking after Canberra.

Tuesday’s federal budget included a number of initiatives the government said will help rebuild the APS “after a decade of neglect”.

One measure is the funding of 10,000 more public servants over the next year.

But at the budget breakfast in Parliament House on Wednesday (10 May), hosted by the Canberra Business Chamber and the Institute of Public Accountants, Senator Pocock said the ACT had been all but forgotten in the budget.

“The government will hang their hat on increasing the public service as something they’re doing for Canberra. I still think we’re missing out when it comes to infrastructure and valuing the nation’s capital,” he said in response to questions from Region.

“We’re way down the bottom per capita. We’re dead last again.

“It’s something that I think our local Labor members are going to have to step up on, and we’re going to have to recognise Canberra as the national capital.

“It should be something we’re investing in and be really proud of.

“I think we have this incredible blueprint for what we can be, in the Griffin plan. It’s about adding to that and ensuring that we have a vibrant city and we’re really setting ourselves up for the future.”

READ ALSO National institutions score $90 million budget boost

The budget included measures to bring more APS consulting in-house, furthering the government’s strategy to reduce the over-reliance on external contractors.

Almost $11 million is being directed towards building the APS’s in-house consulting function.

A further $2 billion will help modernise government ICT systems to improve data security and digital delivery of services.

On budget night, Finance and Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher said the government was delivering on its ambitious APS reform agenda.

“The APS performs a critical role in our democratic system. It should be valued by government and be focused on serving our citizens,” Senator Gallagher said.

“Digital and ICT capability is crucial to deliver easy, accessible and secure services for people and business.”

READ ALSO Federal Budget delivers surplus, cost-of-living relief and more public servants

At the budget breakfast, however, Senator Pocock cautioned against dismissing the value external consultants bring to the ACT’s economy and to the delivery of services.

“It’s all about getting the balance right,” he said.

“It’s about valuing and strengthening the public service without getting into this situation where we have both sides of politics bashing either public servants or contractors.

“There are legitimate reasons to outsource certain functions, for expertise or for all sorts of short-term projects.

“I think the public service is struggling in a whole bunch of areas to maintain talent, given the job market as it is today, and it presents a significant challenge.

“Getting people in, training them up and then they get poached by the private sector and, in many instances, are then re-employed by the government to do work, I think it’s a tough area.”

The IPA’s general manager of technical policy Tony Greco said it was good policy to improve the knowledge and skill base inside the APS.

“We’ve seen examples coming out of Treasury in relation to legislation which I think shows there’s a need for more expertise under the tent,” he said.

“I think there has been a brain drain and I think they have to bolster that expertise and it has to come from within.

“We’ve seen lots of examples where it’s not quite right.”

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C’mon Senator, it’s the first budget mate. Putting the cart before the horse is almost as bad as what the coalition did for a decade and replaced the driver with a committee of destination consultants. Great if you know the destination but if you can’t read maps it takes three months to learn the papers and the landscape. Let’s get the workforce right, their jobs sustainable so we can then properly assess what infrastructure investments will give us most bang for our taxpayers buck. That can happen and be funded at the next or the budget after that, we don’t want another LNP spreadsheet debacle thanks all the same. Oh and Senator, maybe have a chat to a few public servants at the pointy end before you tell us what’s best for us. I’m happy to bring a delegation to your office any time you’d like to hear from the people doing the doing!

What a breath of fresh air David Pocock is!

Adults are back in charge on Capital Hill1:26 pm 05 Apr 24

More like smelly stale wind!

Introduce AI, no need for coffee shop loiterers masquerading as APS

Cause Robo-Debt worked so well.

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