Melissa Donnelly, CPSU National Secretary, Budget Night press conference 

Turning point for the Australian Public Service

Published at The Mandarin (

Tuesday night was a turning point for the Australian Public Service, with the Albanese government announcing an increase of more than 7,500 staff across the APS and committing to stop the wasteful spending on consultants and contractors.

For far too long, we’ve seen governments throw money at expensive consultants and contractors while at the same time cutting public services and public service workers to the bone. This overreliance on consultants was costing the taxpayer more than $2 million per day and contributing to the hollowing out of skills and experience within the public sector.

This is finally coming to an end.

These outcomes will be welcomed not just by hardworking APS employees but also by members of the community that were let down by the last government’s approach to public services. There will always be critics who like to talk down the work of the public service — in fact, the Nationals leader was in that category this week.

But the reality, of course, is that millions of Australians rely on public services and public service workers every day. These services will now be able to function more effectively, with:

  • 653 more jobs in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to help address delays and long wait times for veterans.
  • 296 more jobs in the National Disability Insurance Agency and 225 jobs in the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to see people with disability and their families get the support they need.
  • 921 jobs in the Department of Home Affairs to address critical visa backlogs and see families reunited after years of waiting in limbo for their applications to be processed.
  • 1,248 jobs in the Australian Taxation Office to ensure the agency can better address the growing issue of multi-national tax avoidance.
  • 407 new jobs in the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to regulate aged care services.

And an additional $275.7 million investment in the Department of Climate Change, the Environment, Energy and Water to develop our capacity to respond to the huge and varied challenges of climate change.

Had the Morrison government been re-elected in May, the public sector would be looking down the barrel of a $2.7 billion cut to the APS, which would have slashed a further 5, 500 jobs, and a growing reliance on outsourcing of public sector work.

But this landmark budget is delivering the very opposite of that.

Through its investment in the public sector, this budget will increase staff numbers and start rebuilding APS capacity and capability. It will deliver better support for Australians with a disability and their families. It will see veterans be able to access better services and wait times for visas will finally start to come down.

Public servants doing critical work on climate change and the environment will be better equipped to meet the challenges we all face. And the Australian Tax Office will have extra capacity to start cracking down on multinational tax avoidance.

This budget makes significant progress towards the goal of rebuilding and restoring the APS, but we all know that is a task that will take time.

There is much more to be done to restore the policy capacity and capability that has been eroded by the over-reliance on consultants, but that work has now begun.

This is a Budget that, for the first time in a decade, should be welcomed by public sector workers and CPSU members across the country.