Peter Dutton thinks Canberra has enough public servants already and certainly doesn’t need any more.
The federal Opposition Leader made that point Thursday night (11 May) during his official parliamentary reply to the budget, which he described as a budget that risks creating a generation of working poor.
“There’s more spending than the government earns, and that’s exactly what always gets Labor governments into trouble,” Mr Dutton said.
“We don’t need 10,000 more public servants in Canberra on top of the already 181,000 public servants.”
Tuesday’s federal budget provides for more than 10,000 additional Australian Public Service staff to be employed over the next year and a $10.9 million allocation to build an in-house consultancy function.
But while the Opposition Leader continued the Coalition’s long-held tradition of ‘Canberra bashing’ and talking down the public service, he failed to note that many of those 10,000 extra APS positions will be located outside the nation’s capital.
During last year’s federal election campaign, then-prime minister Scott Morrison publicly and repeatedly berated “public servants in Canberra”.
Tony Abbott fought the 2013 election campaign on a promise to slash APS numbers, and John Howard did exactly that after being elected in 1996.
In this budget, Labor promises to “continue the job of rebuilding the service after 10 years of neglect under the former Coalition government”, with Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher saying the federal government should value the sector.
“The Labor government is doing the job that the former government refused to do,” she said.
But Mr Dutton used his budget in reply speech to accuse Labor of embarking on a course of inflationary spending the nation doesn’t need, which includes employing more public servants.
“But we do need more spending in aged care,” he said.
“And we support the budget measures in aged care, which build on the $30 billion we invested in government … and, as I stated in my last budget in reply, we support sustainable funding in the NDIS.
“This budget shows the government reducing NDIS spending growth, and I call on the government to outline how this will be achieved. NDIS participants and their families deserve to know.”
Independent senator for the ACT David Pocock cautioned the government against claiming the additional public servants meant it was looking after Canberra.
“I still think we’re missing out when it comes to infrastructure and valuing the nation’s capital,” Senator Pocock said.
“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.”
One strong measure promised by the Opposition Leader on Thursday was a move against the blow-out in gambling advertisements during televised sport.
“If the internet influences our children, so does content on our television screens,” he said.
“In our country, footy time is family time. But the bombardment of betting ads takes the joy out of televised sports.
“Worse, they are changing the culture of our country in a bad way and normalising gambling at a young age.
“Many Australian families have had enough.
“That’s why, tonight, I announce that a Coalition government will move to ban sports betting advertising during the broadcasting of games.
“Ads would be banned for an hour each side of a sporting game. I encourage the Prime Minister to work with us on this initiative – to get it implemented now.”
Mr Dutton concluded by touting the Coalition’s claim of superior management of taxpayers’ money.
“We will restore economic responsibility by balancing the budget, getting debt, deficit and inflation down, and doing much-needed structural reform,” he said.
“We will lower your taxes. We will bring back smaller government which stops interfering in your life and telling you how to live it.
“We will pursue sensible policy.”