Budget brings more Coalition damage to wages, jobs and services

The CPSU says the Federal Budget once again fails to deliver on jobs and services, with the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government missing a golden opportunity to use the public sector to stimulate rather than suppress wages growth.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s first Budget - released in the shadows of a Federal Election - has confirmed nothing has changed since Prime Minister Scott Morrison deposed Malcolm Turnbull, just as nothing changed when Mr Turnbull toppled Tony Abbott.

The Budget continues damaging policies that have caused enormous damage to Commonwealth policy capacity and the essential public services that all Australians rely upon. These policies include hidden job cuts to the Tax Office and public service, holding down wages, ongoing privatisation and outsourcing and maintaining the damaging Average Staffing Level cap on worker numbers.

CPSU analysis of the Budget papers has revealed damage including:

  • Hidden job cuts, with 1081 jobs slashed from the public service in the past year, despite last year’s Budget papers saying it would grow by 912 jobs. This shows the damage of the Coalition’s ASL staffing cap, continued in this Budget and driving the privatisation of core Commonwealth work and the under-staffing of critical services including the NDIA.
  • 777 Tax Office jobs have been cut since the last Budget, dropping from 18,193 to just 17,416 staff, meaning the Treasurer’s supposed increased resources to 18,104 staff will still leave the Tax Office with fewer staff than a year ago.
  • Pushing on with the Coalition’s disastrous plan to privatise visa processing, with 3,000 jobs at risk if the system is handed over to a profit-driven corporation.
  • More staffing cuts in the Department of Human Services, another 209 jobs cut after losing 1053 jobs in the last year, instead persisting with four profit-driven private call centres to provide second-rate Centrelink services.
  • Doing nothing on wages, with public service and military wages projected to grow just 1.76 per cent a year over the next four years, just a month after Government cut take-home pay for thousands of Home Affairs officers, with many earning thousands of dollars less than they were when the Coalition came to power.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This Budget shows the Coalition has learned virtually nothing about running a good Government in the nearly six years they’ve been in power. They’ve run Commonwealth agencies and the public services they provide into the ground, cutting over 1,000 jobs in the past year. We’ve got yet another Prime Minister and Treasurer combo here but just more of the same ideological bumf.”

“This Budget should be using the public sector as a lever to stimulate wages growth through the entire economy, yet this Government is proposing another real wage cut, allocating just 1.76 per cent a year to their own wage budget over the next four years. It’s a slap in the face just after they cut the take-home pay of some workers in Home Affairs by thousands of dollars a year. The Government directly sets the pay for nearly 300,000 Australians around the country, yet they’ve only used that power as a brake on the entire economy. Wages growth not half-baked tax cuts are the real answer to improving living standards.”

“The Morrison Government can run ads at taxpayer expense pretending to be tough on multinational tax avoidance, but meanwhile they’ve slashed 777 jobs out of the Tax Office in the last year. The Treasurer’s supposed additional support will not even restore that number of jobs, leaving the Tax Office smaller and weaker.

“The Government’s ASL jobs cap is continuing to do enormous damage across Commonwealth agencies. It’s why the NDIA isn’t helping as many people as it should. The cap means fewer NDIA staff, which means fewer care plans so people aren’t getting the services they need, often services they were receiving prior to the NDIA. The cap is also why the big four accounting firms have been able to triple their earnings from lucrative Commonwealth contracts, ripping out more than half a billion dollars a year.”

“This Budget shows the Coalition can’t even get its story straight on the few areas of Government policy they pretend to care about. The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government pretends to be strong on border security and the integrity of our immigration system, yet they’ve driven Home Affairs into the ground and are pushing on with a deeply flawed plan to privatise our visa processing system.”

“The Government has continued to chip away at the Department of Human Services, and the Medicare and Centrelink services it provides, with yet another round of job cuts after cutting over 1000 jobs in the past year and yet another round of privatisation, putting this agency’s important work into the hands of multinational corporations that are focussed on fat profits and exploiting workers, not helping ordinary Australians.”

“The Liberal and National parties have served their mates in big business well over the past six years, while most voters have seen their incomes stagnate or go backwards and have watched as the public services they rely on have been cut off at the knees. This Budget, released in the shadows of a Federal Election, should make it clear to all Australians that the only way to repair that damage is by voting this mob out.”