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Senator sees red over pruned greenery

ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries opposes cuts to public service plant budgets, saying they will affect morale.

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.''

51 comments

  • Bring your own plants in - and then look after them!

    Commenter
    Outraged of Palmerston
    Date and time
    January 18, 2013, 9:04AM
    • Guess what? Where I work in the APS, we do. Otherwise, we would be buried in the depths of our building with little to brighten the place (though at least we have windows, unlike some). Elsewhere, a few years ago, someone started a fish tank to brighten up her section's work area.

      If you leave it to managers to get this sort of thing done or to assist you by fitting it into their budget, you will be badly disappointed. Their focus is on budgets and complying with the stuff they may be sued for like WHS, equity and harrassment/bullying which is not a bad thing, but fails tocreate and then get the best out of a happy, motivated workforce.

      Commenter
      Fauna
      Location
      A few feet away from the flora
      Date and time
      January 18, 2013, 10:14AM
    • What a whiner! BYO. Talk about pampered. He doesn't need pot plants he needs an iron lung and an intravenous brain enzyme drip.

      Commenter
      doh
      Date and time
      January 18, 2013, 12:18PM
  • Plants in the office are a bit of a luxury. There are already enough vegetables in most workplaces.

    Commenter
    VSt
    Location
    Sydney, NSW.
    Date and time
    January 18, 2013, 9:15AM
    • Bring your own plants for heaven's sake! What's the matter with you?
      I had a whole balcony full of my own palms and other plants at my office and when I left I planted the lot. They are now a forest.
      Stop your silly moaning and start potting up.

      Commenter
      Richard
      Location
      Possum Creek
      Date and time
      January 18, 2013, 10:01AM
      • Agree - plant rental is an absolute rip off. Good to have them in an office though so have staff donate / sponsor a plant and let the people in the office water it etc. At least bureaucrats will see something actually growing from their efforts...... and the hot air should also help.

        Commenter
        dexxter
        Location
        melbourne
        Date and time
        January 18, 2013, 11:34AM
      • Sorry Richard, we are not allowed to bring in our own plants, someone might be allergic to my potted palm. We are going back to the "battery hen" mentality that Dilbert cartoons captured so well!

        Commenter
        Tried That
        Date and time
        January 18, 2013, 2:18PM
      • That's absurd. Who made that rule, Tried That? I would break the rule and take the consequences or make my best endeavours to have the rule changed. If you are being denied the plants then those who deny them because of cost need to allow you to bring in your own.
        You could get advice from those renting out the plants as to which are safe and then present this advice to whoever is preventing you bringing in your own.
        Frankly I wouldn't work in a place without plants and access to fresh air.

        Commenter
        Richard
        Location
        Possum Creek
        Date and time
        January 18, 2013, 3:47PM
    • Better the plants go, than essential services staff, like their State Coalition Pals are doing.

      Commenter
      waterhen
      Date and time
      January 18, 2013, 10:04AM
      • Wayne Swan is the worst treasurer in the history of money.....

        Commenter
        davej
        Date and time
        January 18, 2013, 10:12AM

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