Commonwealth public service review must be guided by facts not ideology

The CPSU says a review of the Commonwealth public service will only succeed if the Turnbull Government is willing to abandon its damaging neoliberal ideology and make significant policy changes that benefit all Australians.

The Government this afternoon announced the wide-ranging review into the Australian Public Service (APS), with former Telstra chief executive David Thodey appointed chairman of a business-dominated panel.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “A clear-eyed and objective look at the Australian Public Service is clearly needed, but we have real concerns that this review will be subservient to neoliberal orthodoxy and the bizarre and damaging policies the Turnbull Government has imposed in pursuit of that extreme ideology. This review must be a catalyst to repair the ongoing damage that’s been inflicted by the Turnbull Government on public services, regulatory and policy capability, rather than a licence to double-down on those flawed policies. Just one example is their whacky policy that the Australian Public Service must be smaller than when John Howard lost office, with an Average Staffing Level cap driving expensive and damaging contracting out and privatisation.”

“The panel chosen to oversee this review is not an encouraging start, given it includes only one person who has worked in the Australian Public Service while four of the six participants have backgrounds serving multinational corporations, including a current board member of the Business Council of Australia and the Centre for Independent Studies. It’s a make-up that underscores how fundamentally the Turnbull Government misunderstands the Australian Public Service and underestimates its critical role in shaping the future of Australia.”

“This review could provide a valuable opportunity to tackle the major challenges facing the public service and our community, while allowing people to have their say on what we want our public institutions to do and how we make sure we have the people, the resources and the technology to do it. What’s needed is a genuine attempt from the Government and the senior leadership of the public service to work with the community, people working in the APS and both sides of politics to wrestle with big challenges, making sure we have the policy capability to deal with the changing world.”

“Scepticism about this review is to be expected given that next week’s Federal Budget will likely show the Government is continuing its program of privatisations, cuts and a big business bonanza of consultants, contractors and labour hire at the expense of the capacity and institutional memory of the public service. Our community may well ask whether this review might mean Centrelink gets the staff and capacity to answer some of those 55 million missed calls. Citizens want the Government to solve the problems they’re facing such as overloaded services, wage suppression, job insecurity and big business having more power than working people. Clearly a Government pursuing those exact directions in the public sector is hardly going to inspire trust that this review will get the answers right for our community.”

“We should be talking about making sure government is skilled and resourced to set the right rules so the public sector can play its role as a regulator, keeping things fair and protecting our community from predatory behaviour in the market. We need our governments to have the strength and the vision to set a path for a public service that can support our democracy and communities. This review and the Turnbull Government will be judged by actions not words.”

“The world is changing but we don’t have to simply be swept along with economic and technological currents. We should not be sleep-walking into the Uberisation of public services, where communities have no say or control over services and where working people have no security or dignity. We should not be allowing public servants with decades of experience to be walking out the door as expensive consultants walk in. We should be talking about how government can make the public service an employer of choice that protects dignity, fairness and security at work so we can build a team of public sector workers with the skills and knowledge to do the things that need doing.”





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