In a sombre assessment of the challenge the APS faces in the years ahead, the public sector’s industrial umpire conspicuously avoided putting a total number on how many jobs are predicted to be lost – but said that “it is clear the APS will undergo a very significant net downsizing over the next few years.”
That observation was contained in a section of the report given the Orwellian title of “Rescaling the APS” in which the APSC drew comparisons with the last wave of mass public service sackings that occurred over three years from 1996.
“The APS headcount was reduced by almost 30,000 (20.5 per cent) over this period,” the report states.
While that figure is well-established, the most obvious unknown that both the bureaucracy and the Abbott government now face is what would happen if reductions in staff related to Labor’s efficiency dividend – estimated to cost 14,500 jobs – are maintained at the same time as the Abbott government’s pledge to downsize by 12,000 positions through natural attrition.
Although the superficial mathematical answer to that question is 26,500 jobs lost – or a headcount reduction of 16 per cent based on the 2012 staff number – much less clear is how much money the downsizing would save, or whether parts of government could function effectively.