Pre-election Budget still matters for wages, jobs and services

The CPSU has warned against complacency over the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government’s pre-election Budget, saying its impact on critical national issues including wages growth, jobs and public services will persist well beyond the Federal Election. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will hand down his first Budget tomorrow night, the sixth under the Abbott-Turnbull Morrison Government, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison expected to call a Federal Election to be held in May within a week.

The CPSU will be judging the Budget in particular on whether it:

  1. Abolishes the damaging and arbitrary Average Staffing Level cap, which has hit jobs, damaged public sector capacity and driven privatisation and outsourcing in Commonwealth agencies.
  2. Clamps down on the rapidly ballooning overuse of contractors, consultants and labour hire across the Australian Public Service, particularly the big four accounting firms. 
  3. Provides a net increase in Commonwealth jobs, after years of cuts. 
  4. Reverses cuts to real wages and uses public sector pay to stimulate rather than stifle wages growth across the economy.
  5. Reverses the privatisation of Centrelink and Medicare work in the Department of Human Services, bringing profit-driven call centres back in house and eliminating the inefficient use of labour hire.
  6. Abandons plans to privatise Australia’s visa processing system, ensuring the safety of 3,000 jobs and guaranteeing that corporate interests do not get control of our visa system.
  7. Tackles tax avoidance by multinational corporations and other big businesses, including a particular focus on the tax affairs of companies holding Commonwealth contracts.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This Budget shouldn’t be dismissed just because it’s being released by an unpopular government in the shadows of a Federal Election. The decisions and priorities laid out by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government with this Budget won’t just disappear on election night if voters decide to kick the Coalition out, they will take effect on 1 July, so Australians absolutely shouldn’t be ignoring what’s in it.”

“We’ve urged the Coalition to make the decisions that a good government would in this Budget, but we will not be at all surprised if they rip billions of dollars more out of the public services to add to their election pork barrel. The Budget should be there to benefit all Australians, but it will unfortunately be completely unsurprising if the Liberal and National parties continue down their well trodden path of neoliberalism.”

“This Budget should focus on delivering better services that the community needs and expects, by giving Commonwealth agencies the tools and workers they need. The Government should also be using the public sector as a powerful macroeconomic lever to drive wages growth. The wages of nearly 300,000 Australians are set by the Government - from Medicare and Centrelink workers to Australian Defence Force members and posties - and yet the Coalition has actively supressed wages, including actually cutting the take-home pay of thousands of Immigration and Border Force workers just a month ago.”

“The Government’s ASL jobs cap remains a millstone around the neck of the Commonwealth public sector that must be removed. It is doing what it was designed to do, destroying the public sector’s capacity while forcing agencies to put core Commonwealth work into the hands of profit hungry corporations. That’s how the big four accounting firms are ripping more than half a billion dollars a year out of the Commonwealth, nearly tripling their stake since the Coalition came to power.”

“Stopping further privatisation of critical Commonwealth services and capacity isn’t enough, as vital as it is to ensure the Coalition’s plans to privatise our visa processing system are abandoned. We need to reverse course on damaging measures that are already in place, such as the four privately operated Centrelink call centres that are failing customers and failing the underpaid, underappreciated people who work in them as their bosses chase profits. Complex and sensitive Centrelink cases should be dealt with by public sector workers who have the training and experience to help.”

“It looks like the Government wants voters to focus on tired and predictable personal tax cuts, while hoping they forget about the massive problem we have in this country with tax avoidance by big business and multinational companies. It’s laughable that the Government would pretend they’ve fixed this problem when so many companies are still paying zero tax at all, including many that are cashing in on lucrative Commonwealth contracts. The Coalition needs to get real with this Budget.”