Budget fails to deliver for the public sector

The Turnbull Government’s Federal Budget did little to repair the damage that is being done to Australia’s essential public services and public policy capacity.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “The Government is trying to sell this Budget as responsible and fair, but the reality is it has dug a bigger hole by continuing with short-sighted and unfair cuts to public services.”

“Since 2013 this Government has made $7.6 billion worth of cuts, hollowing out essential services and policy capacity. As a result we are seeing service delivery and policy failures like the recent #CensusFail  and Centrelink robo-debt debacle.”

“It's breathtaking that despite this, the Government is doubling down on its cuts with another $1.9 billion slashed through its so-called 'efficiency dividend' and a $277 million hit to DHS jobs alone. That means Malcolm Turnbull is arbitrarily ripping more than $2 billion out of public services that are already well past breaking point.”

“There are far more logical and sensible targets for real savings that could be reinvested into jobs and services, starting with the astronomical amounts spent by the Government on contractors and highly paid consultants.

“The Government could also be doing a lot more on tax and revenue. While it has tinkered with negative gearing in this Budget, the reality is big corporations are getting a tax cut and the very wealthy continue to use loopholes and rorts  so they pay little or no tax at all,” said Ms Flood.

At a glance

In coming days CPSU members will receive updates on the impact of the Budget in your agency. What follows here is a brief overview of significant service-wide issues. 

Staffing changes by agency – big agencies and big changes

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Agency 2016-17 (Actual) 2017-18 (Estimate) Change from 2016-17 % change
Department of Human Services 29,835 28,647 -1,188 -4.0%
Australian Taxation Office 17,901 18,043 142 0.8%
Department of Defence 17,350 17,970 620 3.6%
Department of Immigration and Border Protection 14,000 13,755 -245 -1.8%
Australian Federal Police 6,288 6,137 -151 -2.4%
Foreign Affairs and Trade 5,726 5,806 80 1.4%
CSIRO 4,995 5,063 68 1.4%
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources 4,531 4,488 -43 -0.9%
Department of Health 4,642 4,398 -244 -5.3%
Australian Broadcasting Corporation 4,160 4,111 -49 -1.2%
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2,894 2,486 -408 -14.1%
National Disability Insurance Agency 1,849 2,460 611 33.0%
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science 2,450 2,410 -40 -1.6%
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 2,075 2,061 -14 -0.7%
Department of Environment and Energy 1,947 1,972 25 1.3%
Department of Employment 1,877 1,949 72 3.8%
Department of Social Services 1,984 1,942 -42 -2.1%
Department of Veterans' Affairs 1,896 1,853 -43 -2.3%
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation 1,772 1,835 63 3.6%
Department of Education and Training 1,870 1,821 -49 -2.6%
Attorney-General’s Department 1,836 1,736 -100 -5.4%
Department of Finance 1,318 1,257 -61 -4.6%
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions 410 390 -20 -4.9%
National Archives of Australia 390 375 -15 -3.8%
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies 152 121 -31 -20.4%

CPSU calculations based on Table 2.1: Estimates of ASL of agencies in the Australian general government sector from 2017-18 Budget Paper 4: Agency Resourcing

Efficiency Dividend: No change to this annual cut of agency budgets. It remains at 2.5% during 17/18 before dropping to 2% in 18/19 and 1.5% in 19/20. We estimate this will lead to between 3000 and 4500 additional jobs being cut.

Major DHS cuts: The Government will cut DHS staffing by 1100 positions. This is a huge blow to members and will lead to further increases in workloads, wait times and backlogs. Don’t forget, 36 million calls to DHS went unanswered last year because it doesn’t have enough permanent staff to meet demand. Within hours the Budget coming out the CPSU launched an online petition to protest these cuts. Please support it here www.proudtobepublic.org.au/DHScuts

Centrelink outsourcing pilot: Clearly stung by growing public concerns about call centre delays, the Government has ignored calls for more permanent staff and instead will pilot using a private contractor with 250 contract call centre staff.  This is putting a nasty privatisation Band-Aid on a shark bite. If the Government is serious about addressing this issue it should convert the thousands of current non-ongoing DHS staff into permanent employees so they can provide a full range of support for customers.

DIBP call centre outsourcing: The Government has decided to outsource DIBP call centre work to a private sector provider, another ugly decision. As well as putting more than 100 jobs at risk, this raises a range of privacy and accountability concerns.

Defence jobs win by contracting crackdown: The CPSU welcomes the fact the Government has heeded our call to clamp down on wasteful and expensive consultants and contractors saving $304 million. Defence will put some of those savings into funding an extra 640 public service staff. We’ve advocated this solution for several years but are struggling to understand why Government would do the opposite in DHS and DIBP.

Win for cultural institutions: The CPSU’s #FundOurCulture campaign continues to pay off with the Government allocating $48.5 million over three years in the 2017-18 Budget to support Australia’s national cultural collections.

Decentralisation: The union has cautiously welcomed the introduction of tighter standard criteria to ensure agencies have a sound business case for relocating Departments or functions from Canberra or other major cities to regional Australia.  The union strongly supports restoring public sector jobs in regional areas which have been hit hard, but this should be based on a real jobs and services plan rather than political expediency and pork-barrelling. If these new rules were in place earlier, Barnaby Joyce’s disastrous relocation of APVMA from Canberra to Armidale would not have happened.

Shared services: The Government will spend $123.9 million to speed up the move to shared services and the consolidation of corporate services and IT systems for an additional 60 agencies into six corporate services hubs. The CPSU will seek more information on the impact of these measures on staff.

ICT upgrades: The Government will spend $129.6 million over three years to upgrade out-dated ICT systems and other assets, including the $48.5 million for national cultural collections. The CPSU hopes this will bring some relief to long-suffering staff though it’s a small investment.

Overseas allowances: The Government will cut $37 million over four years by ‘standardising’ overseas allowances. Members in DFAT, DIBP and DAWR may be affected. The CPSU will be seeking an urgent briefing on this issue and is concerned about changes that could leave members worse off.

Win on Australian Hearing: Following a strong campaign from the CPSU and other community groups, the Government has decided to maintain full ownership and control of Australian Hearing. This is a great win for affected members and the people who rely on the services they provide.

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