ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries opposes cuts to public service plant budgets, saying they will affect morale. Photo: Melissa Adams
Federal cost-cutting is taking the greenery from the nation's public service workplaces, with office plant budgets slashed by up to 87 per cent in some agencies.
And the ACT's Liberal senator says the health and wellbeing of the nation's bureaucrats could be jeopardised by the razor gang's latest cut.
Answers to questions on notice asked by senator Gary Humphries revealed that the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service had lost more than 75 per cent of its office plants through cutbacks while workers at the National Native Title Tribunal had lost more than 87 per cent of theirs.
The Immigration Department dumped more than 1200 plants from its offices in Canberra and Victoria between last April and September, leaving about 570 and saving the department about $79,000 each year.
Even the relatively well-heeled Australian Security Intelligence Organisation had to trim back the flora, snipping 20 per cent of its office plants to save about $304 each month.
Senator Humphries is a longstanding advocate of the benefits of a touch of greenery around the office; in 2009, he was an outspoken critic of a decision to remove more than 700 plants from the office and corridors of Parliament House.
''A range of studies has shown that having plants in the workplace increases morale and productivity, with one study showing productivity in an office increased 12 per cent and employees' blood pressure and stress levels were lowered,'' he said.
''When you're working inside an office block for most of the day, it's important that conditions are comfortable and welcoming.
''Public servants are noticing the look and feel of their workplace changing for the worse and have lodged complaints about it - it seems these complaints are falling on deaf ears.''
Senator Humphries accused the Labor government of talking ''rubbish'' about public service work conditions.
''Labor continues to promise no job cuts or reduction in workplace conditions - clearly that is complete rubbish,'' he said. ''Labor may want to call cuts to the APS an efficiency dividend, or in this case an 'accommodation realignment exercise', but public servants aren't falling for it.''
But a spokeswoman for Finance Minister Penny Wong shot back, pointing out that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott pledged last October to ban all office plants at the Department of Climate Change.
''This government's approach has always been to find efficiencies in areas such as travel, advertising and government property management,'' the spokeswoman said. ''In stark contrast, the Liberal Party's approach has been to target public service jobs.
''If Senator Humphries is so worried about the public service, he should speak to his colleague Joe Hockey, who boasts about sacking 20,000 public servants if elected.''