Labor's ACT MPs lament public service pain
ACT federal Labor parliamentarians Gai Brodtmann and Kate Lundy say they are disappointed with the cuts to the public service announced in the budget but that even more jobs could have been lost.
Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh has refused to say if he was disappointed by the job cuts, stating that ''difficult decisions'' had to be made in the budget.
Ms Brodtmann said yesterday she was saddened by the job losses revealed in the budget papers but promised to lobby ministers to ensure all reductions were achieved through natural attrition or voluntary redundancies.
''I am disappointed with the 1500 public sector jobs [going], but the government is committed to getting back to a surplus and we had to make some tough decisions,'' she said.
Ms Brodtmann said that she, Dr Leigh, Senator Lundy and Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly had made ''constant representations'' to ministers in the lead up to the budget in an effort to protect public service jobs.
''It could have been worse,'' she said.
Senator Lundy, who was recently appointed Minister for Sport and Multicultural Affairs, said she was disappointed the budget included a negative impact on job levels in the public service.
''I'm always disappointed if there is any impact at all and I spend a lot of my time arguing to be able to sustain the numbers,'' Senator Lundy said.
''That said, I think we've been able to constrain the reduction in public sector numbers to a minium.''
Asked three times if he was personally disappointed by the job losses, Dr Leigh said: ''It's a hard budget and it's a tough situation across the board. There's a range of difficult decisions we've had to make.''
Dr Leigh rejected suggestions that the ACT may have fared better in the budget if it was represented by independent MPs instead of Labor members.
''I think of this being like the person who wants their partner to take notice of them so they go and start flirting with the ugly rich guy across the corridor,'' he said.
''The problem with that is that you might end up with the ugly rich guy and that's probably not what you want in the end.''
Senator Lundy also rejected suggestions that Canberra might receive better treatment from federal governments if it was not considered to be a safe Labor town.
She said Labor's concern for Canberra was demonstrated by the fact job losses had been minimised and would be achieved through natural attrition and voluntary redundancies.
''I think it's been done thoughtfully and carefully and cannot be seen in anyway as taking Canberra for granted,'' Senator Lundy said.
''In fact the opposite: I think the care and the concern shown with the approach shows that there is a great deal of regard for the role of the public sector and as local members we'll advocate that.''
Ms Brodtmann said federal Labor had made significant investment in the ACT since coming to power in 2007, including funding for national institutions, the Majura Parkway, Monaro Highway, schools and health care.
The three Labor members said the public service would suffer far more drastic cuts if the coalition formed a government.
Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey yesterday repeatedly criticised the government for allowing the public service to grow by more than 20,000 positions since the 2007 election. Dr Leigh planned to meet ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr to discuss options for Commonwealth public servants to transfer to the local government if their positions were abolished.