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Issue #1775      May 3, 2017

Public sector job cuts

As many as 4,500 more public service jobs could be cut if the Turnbull government continues its efficiency dividend push in this month’s federal budget, the peak public service union has warned.

After 15,000 job cuts since the Coalition was elected to government in 2013, the Community and Public Sector Union has used its pre-budget submission to Treasurer Scott Morrison to warn continuing $1.924 billion in planned efficiency savings announced in 2016 would see between 3,000 and 4,500 additional jobs go.

The figures are based on government data showing about 55 percent of previous efficiency cuts have come from cuts reductions to the federal workforce, suggesting that planned savings by 2020 would result in $972 million more in jobs lost.

The union said the full impact on staffing levels would depend on how $500 million in savings from government transformation efforts is spent.

“After years of governments cutting public sector funding, the public service is struggling to provide the level of services that the Australian community deserves,” the submission said.

“The government’s decisions have led to the debacles of the 2016 Census and the Centrelink automated debt recovery scheme. There is now increasing community awareness and dissatisfaction with the impact of public sector cuts and the governments who deliver those cuts.”

The government receives hundreds of submissions to the budget process – with business groups, unions, community organisations and non-profits laying out their wish lists for the year ahead. Some proposals are adopted, while others are ignored.

The Young Liberal Movement used its submission to call for another Abbott government-style audit commission and more public service job cuts.

The CPSU called for the May 9 budget package to “begin to repair substantial and unsustainable damage done to the public service” through reversing the efficiency dividend, arguing public sector wages remained just 6.1 percent of government spending in 2016-17.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Public Service Commission declined to comment on the submission.

Last week the government announced National Party-led plans for further forced moves of public servants to rural and regional Australia. Staff numbers in the Australian Public Service grew last year for the first time since 2012, up by 3,518 to 155,771 positions.

The growth was probably caused by the end of the Abbott government’s hiring freeze imposed on departments and agencies, preventing them from recruiting staff unless there were exceptional circumstances.

The Coalition has cut about 15,000 public service jobs since 2013. Redundancies were about triple the usual rate in that period as the government retrenched more than 9,100 staff to help reach its target.

The federal bureaucracy employed fewer people in June 2015 than in the last months of the Howard government in 2007. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows a 15.8 percent rise in the population since June 2007, while public service job numbers have fallen by 0.2 percent in the same period.

Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann accused the government of showing contempt for public servants.

“You can tell a lot about a government by how it treats its workers – the Coalition government must be judged by what it does for workers, and how it treats its own workforce.

“My concern is for the smaller agencies, particularly our national institutions.

“We’re not cutting into fat –we’re not cutting into bone, we’re cutting into vital organs,” she said.

Next article – The beach shacks, an amazing saga

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