Cormann chooses ideology over reality on staffing cap

The CPSU says Minister Matthias Cormann has cherry-picked and misrepresented the facts in his attempt to defend of the Coalition Government’s ideologically-motivated cap on staffing in Commonwealth agencies.

 The reinstated Minister for Finance and the Public Service has criticised the Federal Opposition’s recently adopted policy to scrap the staffing cap in the Australian Public Service, and instead crackdown on costly and wasteful spending on consultants, contractors and labour hire arrangements.

Senator Cormann has claimed that the use of profit-driven multinational corporations rather than in-house capacity in Commonwealth agencies is somehow cheaper, despite the Government’s secretive and ballooning spending on such arrangements.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “We haven’t had to wait long to see that the Liberal leopard hasn’t changed its spots. Senator Cormann has had to cherry-pick and misrepresent the facts to defend a policy that’s based entirely on neo-liberal ideology. The Liberal Party is more concerned with lining the pockets of corporations than providing quality jobs, quality services and strong policy capacity.”

“As a Government with a stated commitment to jobs and growth, it’s unacceptable for the Coalition to choose labour hire and other contracting arrangements as a substitute for ongoing employment. It is within the power of the Coalition to choose an employment model of secure jobs that can provide a better level of service to the Australian community rather than just handing over billions of dollars to multinationals to spend the same amount of money on jobs that drive down wages and conditions and reduce services.”

“The only reason Senator Cormann can even pretend his argument holds water is that there’s deliberate secrecy around what money this Government gives to corporations, why that money is given and what these profit-hungry companies do with it. The Minister is relying on AusTender data to claim that spending on consultants hasn’t grown, despite his own department telling a Parliamentary inquiry that AusTender data doesn’t provide an accurate picture of how much the Government spends annually on consultants, and isn’t intended to.”

“We can see just the tip of the iceberg with this problem, and that’s bad enough. A recent report by the Australian National Audit Office indicated that contract procurement in the public sector was worth as much as $47 billion in 2016-17, and it emerged early last year that the Department of Defence has more consultants, contractors and labour hire staff than permanent employees. We believe there are at least 23,000 contractors and labour hire workers based in Commonwealth agencies right now, representing an incredibly poor deal for tax payers and these workers.”

“The ASL cap is a bizarre policy. It doesn’t save money because departmental budgets remain the same. Submissions to the current APS Review make it clear the policy force agencies to pay corporations a premium price for staffing and services that could be provided at a higher quality and cheaper price in-house. Profit-driven companies charge the Government more and then pay their workers thousands less, often in insecure work with shoddy conditions.”

“Senator Cormann is right to point out that the CPSU has lobbied Labor to fix this wasteful and damaging policy, but he’s failed to mention that we’ve also made the same overtures to the Coalition and indeed to him directly. We will be the first to congratulate the Minister if the Government is able to put the public interest ahead of corporate profits by ditching the ASL cap and cracking down on costly outsourcing.”