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Issue #1539      14 March 2012

Abbott’s public sector attack incorrect and offensive

Public sector workers have hit back at Opposition leader Tony Abbott after he suggested many of their jobs could be slashed under a Coalition government.

Speaking at a Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry conference today Mr Abbott asked “whether the federal health department really needs all 6,000 of its current staff when the Commonwealth doesn’t actually run a single hospital or nursing home … whether the federal education department really needs all 5,000 of its current staff when the Commonwealth doesn’t run a single school.”

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national secretary Nadine Flood said: “If Tony Abbott wants to be taken seriously on public sector issues he should get his facts right before he starts hacking into jobs and services.

“His comments are misleading at best – and in my view – offensive to the hard-working people in these agencies.

“Firstly, the health department Mr Abbott refers to is actually called the Department of Health and Aging (DoHA). It has 4,200 staff, not 6,000. They don’t run any hospitals because, as Mr Abbott knows, that is a state responsibility.

“But they do perform crucial tasks including implementing the Coalition of Australian Governments’ reforms to ensure we have a fair and effective national health system; ensuring there are decent national standards in aged care and nursing homes, and making sure we all have access to safe medicine through the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

“Secondly, the education department Mr Abbott wants to slash is actually the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).

“They have 4,300 staff not 5,000. They don’t run schools because, as Mr Abbott knows, that is a state responsibility. They do critical work such as ensuring private sector employment service providers deliver value for money. DEEWR staff also run the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS) program which ensures workers get basic entitlements if their employer goes bust.

“Other DEEWR staff administer national school curriculum including the MySchool website as well as maintaining national standards and accountability in the childcare sector. They also oversee national standards across the tertiary education sector, Australia’s third largest export earner.

“Does Mr Abbott really want to slash these services? As an alternative Prime Minister, Mr Abbott needs to provide more than just glib and inaccurate spin to the Australian community.

“Comments like this confirm that Tony Abbott is a clear and present danger to Australian workers and to public services. In coming months we’ll be campaigning alongside Dave Oliver, and the ACTU and with community groups to ensure essential jobs, services and workplace rights are safe from Mr Abbott’s negative agenda,” Ms Flood said.  

Next article – Food processing issues confronted

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