Labor gets to work on repairing the Commonwealth public sector

The CPSU says new policy announcements from the Federal Opposition are a strong start to restoring the Australian Public Service and the critical services it provides to the community.

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Finance Jim Chalmers has announced a raft of policies around the APS today at an Australia and New Zealand School of Government event in Canberra.

Dr Chalmers says that if elected a Labor Government will:

  1. Scrap the arbitrary ASL cap on staffing levels
  2. Reduce spending on costly contractors and consultants, with the savings to be re-invested into building direct APS capacity and jobs, while increasing transparency around private sector outsourcing
  3. Ditch the 0.5 per cent additional efficiency dividend from next financial year
  4. Provide 1,200 permanent quality jobs including specialist positions in the Department of Human Services
  5. Cut travel budgets by 10%

The speech also confirms already announced plans to strengthen the Tax Office and the competition watchdog, establish a National Integrity Commission and invest in the future through the FutureAsia iniative and the Australian Manufacturing Future Fund.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “These are strong and sensible commitments from Labor, heeding our long-term advocacy to start repairing the massive damage the Abbott and Turnbull Governments have done to the Australian Public Service. These policies recognise that the public service has a vital role to play in our society, and exists to serve our entire community and not just government. Saving money on contracting and abolishing a ridiculous staffing cap while investing those savings in thousands of new jobs is a big step forward. Labor’s statements on public service work being predominantly done by public servants is good public policy.”

“The Coalition has attacked the APS with an ideological wrecking ball, slashing 18,000 jobs while public sector wages have stagnated and job security, working conditions and service standards have declined. At the same time as the Turnbull Government has been merrily cutting budgets and service and policy capacity it’s been pushing to privatise the public sector by contracting out service delivery, turning agencies that should be about the public good into cash cows for corporations.”

“One of the chief weapons in the Turnbull Government’s arsenal to attack the APS has been its costly and illogical ASL cap on staffing levels across Commonwealth agencies. It’s enormously pleasing to see that Labor will be scrapping this policy, which has had disastrous consequences as it’s forced departments to sack staff no matter how critical their work is. This ASL cap hurts workers, essential services and all Australians who rely on those services.”

“The staffing cap has helped drive another damaging problem that Labor is now committed to fixing, the ballooning growth in spending on contractors and consultants. The Coalition has forced Commonwealth agencies to spend ever growing amounts on costly contractors, consultants and labour hire arrangements rather than building capacity with more cost-effective in-house arrangements. The Government has quite literally been taking money out of workers’ pockets and giving it to corporations that care only about profits not the quality of public services.”

“The so-called ‘efficiency dividend’ continues to damage the fundamental capacity and strength of the public sector. The APS isn’t a magic pudding and this Orwellian term can’t hide the disastrous impact that years of blanket cuts to department budgets have caused. Labor is taking an important first step towards providing departments with the funding they need to serve government and the community.”

“The Labor Party is showing the way on improving DHS services across Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support. Rather than selling DHS off piece by piece as the Turnbull Government has been doing with private call centres and labour hire debt compliance workers, Labor will provide 1,200 quality jobs that ensure properly trained and experienced staff are on hand to provide genuine help. Labor promises 50 specialist staff to deal with stressed farmers seeking drought assistance, while the Coalition chooses private call centres designed to shunt clients around and boost corporate profits through shoddy pay, job security and working conditions.”

SIMON FRAZER 0409 493 290