18 May 2022

Union, Opposition slams Coalition's billion-dollar public service cuts plan

| Lottie Twyford
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Centrelink Woden

A re-elected Morrison Government would cut public service spending by $2.7 billion over the next four years. Photo: Region Media.

The Coalition’s plan to cut billions in funding and thousands of jobs in the public sector if elected on Saturday has been slammed by the public servants’ union as an “extraordinary attack on jobs and essential services”.

According to the Coalition’s election costings, a re-elected Morrison Government would cut public service spending by $2.7 billion over the next four years.

The government would do so by increasing the efficiency dividend – a measure that reduces public service budgets by a certain percentage each year – from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent for three years.

The union estimated this could put 5500 jobs on the chopping block.

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But the Morrison Government said the cuts are needed to improve the budget bottom line by a billion dollars over the forward estimates.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it would be up to department secretaries and agency heads to find the savings from their budgets.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the savings would allow the government to fund $2.3 billion in campaign promises.

“It’s a responsible approach. It’s one that is being used by previous governments of both political persuasions, and it ensures our budget bottom line actually improves over time,” Mr Frydenberg said yesterday.

Melissa Donnelly

Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Melissa Donnelly said the efficiency dividend would affect services. Photo: Supplied.

However, Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Melissa Donnelly argued the government’s proposed cuts would lead to people waiting longer for inquiries to be answered and claims to be processed.

She described the Australian Public Service as having steered the country through the pandemic, fires and floods over recent years.

“All Australians rely on the essential services [public servants] deliver,” she said.

“Ripping billions of dollars out of the public sector will have a devastating impact on jobs and services, and further reduce the capacity of the APS to support Australians.”

The CPSU claimed that since being elected in 2013, the Coalition has already pulled almost $4 billion in funding out of the public service and cut 8000 public sector jobs while giving $5 billion to private companies and contractors through outsourcing.

Some agencies would be exempt from the cuts, including the NDIS, ABC, SBS, Safe Work Australia, the Australian Signals Directorate, the Office of National Intelligence and small agencies.

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The Opposition, which will release its policy costings tomorrow (19 May), has also slammed the cuts, saying they will have a devastating impact on jobs and public services.

ACT Senator and Labor public service spokesperson Katy Gallagher criticised the government’s announcement as having been hidden from the public.

“Scott Morrison and the Liberals have deliberately hidden these last-minute cuts from the community,” Senator Gallagher said.

“Canberrans that are public servants or small businesses that rely on the public service for their ongoing success deserve better than a further efficiency dividend from a Liberal Government that has racked up a trillion dollars of debt over its time in office,” she said.

Labor has already pledged to create more than 1000 new frontline service delivery public service jobs and reduce the APS’s reliance on labour-hire and consultancies, which would be achieved by reducing spending in that area by $3 billion over four years.

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Independent ACT Senate candidates David Pocock and Kim Rubenstein pointed to the impact the cuts would have on the Territory’s economy and the public service’s ability to provide frank and fearless advice to the government.

“Our under-resourced and depleted public service carried a heavy burden in the depths of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. They deserve better than the promise of further cuts that will impact heavily on the ACT economy at a time of worsening inflation and rising interest rates,” Professor Rubenstein said.

Mr Pocock described the Coalition’s cuts as a short-sighted approach that will do more harm than good.

“Yet again, this shows the disrespect for Canberrans and the expertise and professionalism of our public sector,” he said.

“Each dollar ripped out of the APS is yet another dollar ripped out of Canberra.”

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Pocock has saved us. He is a great man and we owe him a lot

Jenny Graves5:03 pm 18 May 22

What made me so mad was the Morrison presented this by saying ‘the APS is very well paid’. Well, I won’t deny that, but they’re also incredibly stretched in terms of their workloads and, in my opinion, for the most part they earn their money.

As someone has commented, this will be popular amongst people outside Canberra. That is, until they realise that this means that services will have to be cut because the staff aren’t there to cover them. How many people complain about sitting on the phones (think the ATO or Centrelink) waiting to talk to someone? Why do they think that is? And how the Liberals think that they will implement any programs is totally beyond me. Do they think that things happen by magic?

As for saving money, we all remember what happened in 1996. People were laid off from the APS in droves and then many of them were re-employed as contractors, which actually cost MORE money.

Anyone who thinks this is a good idea, needs their head examined.

Are these actual cuts based on tested figures or are they based on untested figures of planned projected spending which has not been enacted or tested, like what Tanya Plibersek says about education funding but is found to be misleading by ABC RMIT Fact Check? Using that method, it can be claimed that there are budget cuts for anything. You just don’t know with Labor and the misleading claims about Centrelink and Medicare which are often being unequivocally ruled out by Anne Ruston.

Labor were also critical about there needing to be more payments provided to unemployment payment recipients when the fortnightly increase of $20 was announced by Liberal/LNP, yet when asked to confirm whether Labor would increase unemployment payments, Penny Wong said on The Project that due to the need to fulfil spending for campaign promises that unemployment payments ended up on the chopping block. This effectively means that Labor’s policy, despite all the criticism about the Liberal/LNP policy, is identical to the Liberal/LNP policy.

Martin Keast2:12 pm 18 May 22

Whether or not you are a public servant, the issue of how Australia is going to get out from under the huge covid debt is of vital importance. I believe that the tendency over the last few decades has been for the administrative state to become larger and larger as governments take on ever more responsibility. It is time for a ‘great reset’ and a restoration of personal responsibility with less government regulation and interference. The added advantage will be the reduction of compliance costs and a much more productive, innovative economy as a result. This would be the best thing for Australia right now.

Capital Retro12:03 pm 18 May 22

This is a win-win announcement for Morrison because he will get extra votes from people outside of Canberra who hate the place and all the public servants in Canberra will vote Labor or Greens no matter what.

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