Basin bureaucrats left up the creek

The 4 Corners report into the Murray Darling Basin scheme comes at a time when the workers tasked with administering the plan are under more pressure than ever before. CPSU, the union representing employees in the federal public service, says staffing cuts, a staffing cap (the Average Staffing Level or ASL cap), budget cuts in the form of efficiency dividends and forced relocations are part of the problem for what was meant to be an important public policy.

CPSU Deputy National President, Lisa Newman said, “Our members are trying to do their important jobs in a highly politicised environment and at a time where their job security is in question.

“In the Department of Agriculture, there have been year-on-year cuts to Water Division staff since they moved from the Environment Department. Another 17% cut to staff was announced in the last Budget, and the ASL cap has meant that some branches within Water Division have relied on external, contracted labour hire for 38% of their staffing at times. For a program of such importance and massive investment, removing staff and expertise can only make things worse.”

“The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is half way through implementing the Basin Plan. The next stages rely heavily on staff with the skills and experience to get the job done. For example, efficiency measure projects to recover the 450GL of ‘up-water’ is going to require more engagement with rural communities and States and Territories, not less. How can MDBA be expected to do that with 17% of staff lost to cuts?”

“For rural communities who need to know about the Basin Plan, the cuts mean they may not receive the support they need. Regardless of whether the scheme is flawed or not - no plan can be administered without the staff to do it. Oversight requires employees, its as simple as that.”  

“Our members act with the highest integrity, and take their responsibilities as custodians of taxpayers' funds seriously. There is no way, as taxpayers themselves, they want to see rorts in programs. CPSU wants to see all our agencies staffed with people in secure jobs who can give frank and fearless advice and administer policies and programs well.”

MEDIA CONTACT:Claire Pullen 0429 015 429