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MPs clash as pressure mounts for further cuts

Labor MP Andrew Leigh.

Labor MP Andrew Leigh. Photo: Lannon Harley

Public servants are already cutting corners and making mistakes due to the pressure of work from job cuts, according to their union, amid reports of pressure for further cuts.

A report that the government has asked the public service to search for fresh spending cuts before Christmas sparked vitriol on Monday between ACT and federal MPs.

The Community and Public Sector Union said many public sectors workers would have taken comfort from the Prime Minister's promise not to ''slash and burn'' the federal bureaucracy.

Liberal Senator Gary Humphries.

Liberal Senator Gary Humphries. Photo: Colleen Petch

The union's assistant national secretary, Louise Persse, said federal public servants were feeling the pressure from previously announced budget cuts and the increased efficiency dividend.

''The last federal budget took $2.2 billion out of the Commonwealth public service and we estimate that more than 5300 Commonwealth jobs have been lost since November 2011,'' she said.

''It is not possible to make cuts like this without damaging services. The community has a right to expect decent services and these cuts have gone far enough.''

The recent budget update - the midyear economic and fiscal outlook - set aside an additional $95 million to pay public servant wages, with Customs and the Taxation Office needing to recruit staff to beef up surveillance activities.

The State of the Service report last week said the public service continued to grow this year despite the toughest crackdown on spending in more than a decade and at a time when many agencies were retrenching staff.

Labor's Andrew Leigh said the government was always asking how it could do its work better, without cutting jobs.

Canberra's public servants should not be concerned by a Liberal Party fear campaign.

Liberal Gary Humphries suggested Mr Leigh was living in a parallel universe if he did not believe jobs were being cut.

''Clearly if Andrew Leigh thinks there aren't any cuts, he's living in a different Canberra to the one I'm living in,'' Senator Humphries said.

Cabinet's expenditure review committee - the ''razor gang'' - is meeting to find savings that will fulfil the government's pledge to return the budget to surplus this financial year.

Dr Leigh said he did not think there was room for further job cuts.

''Canberrans should not be concerned by a Liberal Party fear campaign,'' he said. ''We should focus on the fact that last Friday The Canberra Times reported on its front page that public servant numbers are at record highs.''

Asked for an assurance of no further public service job cuts, he said: ''Look at the facts would be my response to that.

''The State of the Service shows there are 168,000 public servants, a record number of public servants because there's an awful lot to do.

''We recognise that if you're going to do things like a National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski reforms, that needs public servants to do it. We'll always focus on finding efficiencies through other means than jobs. I've always believed that cutting jobs should be last thing we do.''

Senator Humphries said a close study of MYEFO found nothing about making the government more efficient.

7 comments

  • Perhaps Mr Leigh could donate his $50k salary increase back to "the party" an increase he claimed he did not want when it was announced as his main concern was serving his constituents, "ho hum"

    Commenter
    NITRO GANGSTER
    Location
    ACT
    Date and time
    December 04, 2012, 8:46AM
    • The APS can be cut as severely as you like, PROVIDING the politicians are prepared to stop making incessant and nonsensical demands on them; and manage the backlash over reduced services and slower responses to public enquiries, or indeed no responses at all. However, the latest exercise in fiscal stupidity - consideration of a VFT tunnel in the ACT - just shows you how poorly the brain cells are functioning. It's not many years ago that millions of dollars of taxpayer funds were wasted on a similarly spectacularly dumb - and costly - site for a second Sydney airport near Holsworthy. Not a level piece of ground to be seen - just ravines to be filled in and hillsides to be levelled - it would have been the earthmoving exercise of the century. Australians had better focus on taking the logical, affordable approach on all such challenges or nothing useful will be built, anywhere.

      Commenter
      Dr Doug
      Date and time
      December 04, 2012, 8:50AM
      • I am deeply disappointed, but not surprised, that neither of these 'representatives of the ACT" bothered to mention the impact that this is having of ACT businesses, especially small business. Small business in Canberra through a myriad of direct and indirect association are linked to the public service cuts.That includes many Queanbeyan and regional businesses as well. Whilst I have deep concern for Public Servants who loss their jobs, they unfortunately are not the only ones.

        Commenter
        Irene
        Date and time
        December 04, 2012, 9:32AM
        • Three easy way to cut costs

          1. cut programs
          2. stop requiring the APS to act as the immediate media advisors to the government
          3. get rid of PPQs

          There, even just the latter two will cut costs by 10% if not more.

          Commenter
          adsf
          Date and time
          December 04, 2012, 9:36AM
          • Maybe they could actually be (shock horror) sensible about the suggestion of cutbacks. Instead of looking at "bums off seats" rationale look at the executive service and "consultants"/"contractors" How many of them are actually doing anything worthwhile, how many of them are doing things that could be done more cheaply by other people.

            A couple of years ago I worked for a department that did away with the Travel assistant position. So the Executive level people did the booking and aquittal of their own travel. They took longer to do it, spent more money on their travel, (they didn't have the "contacts" to get special deals, didn't know the little hotels in areas - that didn't necessarily advertise on the internet but were good and cheap, didn't know the aquittal codes off by heart) and there was no one to double check they were actually conforming to the guidelines on their spends. It was an area that by its nature required a lot of interstate travel. But they had SAVED the cost of a APS 4! In the first 6 months they had spent more on travel expenses and the "on costs" + salary of the assistant had cost them in the previous 5 years annual averages - BUT they had cut salary costs! so according to some they did the right thing. Sad thing is - they still don't have a travel assistant, and departments still do things like this.

            Please people - let's actually have some rationality in the arguement.

            Commenter
            Lee
            Date and time
            December 04, 2012, 12:24PM
            • Why won't people believe Mr Leigh when he says that his Government will not slash and burn the APS? Oh, that's right - they weren't going to introduce a carbon tax either...

              Commenter
              Bronte
              Location
              Belconnen
              Date and time
              December 04, 2012, 1:18PM
              • CORRECT Bronte but as Mr Leigh is off quite often delivering sermons on economics he may not have heard.

                Commenter
                NITRO GANGSTER
                Location
                ACT
                Date and time
                December 04, 2012, 7:49PM
            Comments are now closed
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