After years of sustained pressure from CPSU members and our Proud to Be Public supporters, tonight the Morrison Government has finally conceded that their staffing level cap is unworkable, scrapping the arbitrary service wide cap and announcing a 5,364 increase in staffing APS wide.

This outcome is the result of the work and advocacy of CPSU members and delegates.

This staffing increase, while welcome, will not undo the damage of eight years of deep cuts to the public service and is not sufficient to deliver the services that Australia relies on. The 5,000 jobs the Government has announced tonight restore less than half of the 13,000 it has cut since 2013.

The staffing increases announced tonight do not cover the whole APS. Services Australia sees their numbers decrease by 800 staff to return to below the COVID-19 staffing peak, despite these jobs being desperately needed well before the pandemic hit. The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), NDIS Quality and Safeguard Commission, and ASIC will also see their staffing levels reduced.

In welcome news for members in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the service community, a 26% increase of 447 staff has been announced. Staffing at the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, the regulatory body of aged care facilities and home care, will increase by 60% with 312 additional staff. Home Affairs sees an increase of 497 staff, while the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment will increase by 142 staff, and the ANAO by 49.

Labour hire workers left behind

Tonight’s Budget was a huge missed opportunity to offer certainty to the 20,000 labour hire workers who serve the public via expensive labour hire contracts that line the pockets of corporations while denying these workers job security and same-job-same-pay. The Government could have offered certainty to these workers by cutting out the expensive private companies and delivering better services with more directly employed workers at the same cost.

Failure to address the wages crisis

Wages have stagnated for the longest period on record under this Government’s watch, and tonight we saw no plan to change that. The government is asking business to do the heavy lifting on wage growth while failing to address the record low wages crisis themselves.

Instead, the Government’s destructive public sector bargaining policy remains in place, tying APS pay rises to the private sector Wage Price Index (WPI), which the Reserve Bank itself has recognised will cement low wages growth across both the private and public sectors.

By the Treasury’s own calculations, wage growth is not predicted to exceed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) until 2024-5 which means wage growth with continue to lag behind cost of living increases.

We will keep up the pressure on the Government

CPSU members have much to be proud of. Tonight, the Government has admitted what you have been telling them for a long time - that the staffing cap is broken. We will continue campaigning for secure jobs and fair wages, and a strong public service that has the staffing, funding, and tools it needs.

We will provide more detailed analysis over the coming days of the Budget and what it means for you and your agency.