Is Katy Gallagher the minister who stole Christmas?
For many public service contractors, the answer is clearly yes.
And the same goes for a lot of small business operators in Canberra – retailers, restaurants, cafes etc – relying on the festive spend from these very same people.
Contractors are being laid off in the hundreds and thousands right now right across the Australian Public Service.
And they’re being given their marching orders just before Christmas, with many to be out the door before the end-of-year shutdown.
As Region first reported last week, one thousand of them are leaving Services Australia; their projects are ending and their services are no longer required.
But while this might be the biggest and clearest example of the contracting cull having begun, Services Australia is not a Robinson Crusoe agency on this issue.
Contractors are being laid off across the service – every agency has had orders to review the reliance on contractors.
But the situation is a little more complex (and nasty) than that.
Government departments are terminating contracts and offering those same contractors permanent roles.
Basically, the message is: “If you want to work for this government, leave your consulting firm and come work for us directly – for less money in your pocket.”
As one contractor told Region: “They’re putting a gun to our heads.”
This is all at the insistence of the minister bent on saving money and reshaping the APS in the process.
Her Public Sector portfolio is helping to meet the demands of her Finance portfolio.
But forcing savings in this manner right before Christmas is helping nothing but the Albanese Government’s bottom line while hurting an awful lot of individuals, families and businesses.
Hospitality venues, normally raging this time of year, have already begun to feel the pinch.
One example: a very popular Kingston restaurant, usually teeming with patrons in the last weeks of a parliamentary sitting year, had one table of just two people for the entire lunchtime session last Thursday while desperately hoping bookings would be coming in for dinner that night.
There has been a sudden impact and it’s being repeated across the city.
Consulting and contracting firms who, like it or not, are part of the fabric of this public service town and have helped with the development of many government services, are now a big-time government target.
Many consultancies are now paying their bills late and the contractors they place are massively reining in their spending.
Yes, there needs to be a rebalance in the economy and in the APS workforce, but the minister hasn’t got the balance right.
Maybe David Pocock can help.