Turnbull Budget must begin rebuilding public sector capacity

The CPSU says the Turnbull Government cannot afford to wait and must use tonight’s Federal Budget to begin urgently repairing the Commonwealth public sector.

The union has strongly urged the Government to use the Budget to reverse a number of damaging policies, including abandoning the so-called “efficiency dividend”, removing the arbitrary cap on Commonwealth staffing levels and instead imposing a sensible cap on the use of contractors, consultants and labour hire.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This may be Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s final Budget to begin repairing the enormous damage the Coalition has caused to the capacity and services provided by Commonwealth agencies across the board as 18,000 jobs have been slashed. It’s urgent and can’t wait until Mr Turnbull’s Australian Public Service (APS) review reports back sometime next year.”

“People relying on essential public services have paid the price for years of ideologically motivated cuts, along with the workers in those agencies. The Turnbull Government’s crazy policies are the reason why 55 million calls to Centrelink went unanswered last year. It’s why the cash-strapped Bureau of Statistics is paying twice as much for private IT workers rather than having in-house expertise. But it’s not too late for the Turnbull Government to change direction. There are several obvious policy changes needed and no excuse for this Government to sit on its hands.”

“The so-called ‘efficiency dividend’, an Orwellian term for blanket cuts to departmental budgets, continues to do damage to the fundamental capacity and strength of the public sector. That damage is compounding as these cuts continue to bite year after year, so it’s more important than ever that this policy is abandoned in this Budget and never brought back.”

“The similarly euphemistic Average Staffing Level cap, a whacky policy that states the Australian Public Service must be smaller than when John Howard lost office, also needs to be scrapped immediately. The ASL cap has had disastrous consequences as it’s forced departments to sack staff no matter how critical their work is. This bizarre policy hurts workers, essential services and all Australians who rely on those services.”

“Both the ‘efficiency dividend’ and staffing cap have contributed to the third disastrous trend under the Turnbull Government, the ballooning use of contractors, consultants and labour hire to do work that was and should be carried out by public sector workers. The Government is taking money out of the pockets of workers and handing it to big business, despite knowing there’s no upside other than currying favour with their mates in the big end of town.”

“The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit continues to uncover damning examples across Commonwealth agencies of this Government’s addiction to inefficient arrangements using contractors, consultants and labour hire. There’s a disgraceful lack of transparency around these arrangements and it’s also bad for workers as labour hire means lower paid, insecure work with shoddy training and working conditions.”

“Tackling the over-reliance of private companies in providing Information and Communications Technology services would be a good place to start. Just in ICT alone we estimate that more than $380 million could be saved every year by replacing the nearly 5,000 contractors employed in Commonwealth agencies with in-house expertise.”

“The ‘efficiency dividend’, the staffing cap and the huge amounts of money being sprayed around on contractors, consultants and labour hire are collectively a massive black mark on the Turnbull Government. This Budget is the time to deliver decent services to Australian citizens rather than yet another big business bonanza.”