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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”