Turnbull Budget should ditch damaging C'wlth staffing cap

The CPSU has urged the Turnbull Government to use next month’s Budget to scrap its arbitrary cap on staffing levels in Commonwealth agencies to restore policy capacity and service standards and help curb wasteful spending on consultants, contractors and labour hire.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood has this week written to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann outlining the strong case for abandoning the Average Staffing Level (ASL) cap introduced under former prime minister Tony Abbott.

The ASL cap applies arbitrary staffing limits on Commonwealth departments, forcing agency heads to increasingly rely on more expensive and less effective and transparent external employment arrangements.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “I’ve written to Minister Mathias Cormann because the Budget is fast approaching and time is running out to remove this cap that has hamstrung the Turnbull Government and is hurting Commonwealth agencies and ordinary Australians who rely on the critical public services they provide.”

“We’ve been saying for years that the ASL cap is doing damage and needs to be scrapped, but many others have recently spoken in support of our position, particularly through the inquiry currently being conducted by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit. That includes department secretaries who’ve seen the damage done and had to try to deal with it.”

“The premise of the ASL cap is to keep the Commonwealth public sector at its size when former prime minister John Howard was ditched by voters in 2007. But the reality is it’s all smoke and mirrors, with the Government in reality paying more and receiving less through its ballooning use of consultants, contractors and labour hire.”

“The Government is hurting itself through this cap but it’s also hurting the general public and of course those labour hire workers who should have quality, permanent jobs with a Commonwealth agency but are instead being kept on tenterhooks doing the same work for less pay and with worse working conditions while the labour hire firm turns a fat profit.”

“The ASL cap has also made Commonwealth agencies less transparent, because outsourcing is synonymous with secrecy. We’ve had to watch the unedifying spectacle of Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd on one hand spruiking the supposed benefits of labour hire and then telling the JCPAA inquiry he doesn’t know how many labour hire workers are employed in Commonwealth agencies.”