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Report's recommendations are a kick in the gut to the capital

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What the Commission of Audit's report recommendations means for public servants

Canberra Times reporter Phillip Thomson outlines what the Commission of Audit's report recommendations means for public servants.

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Tony Abbott has been handed the blueprint for a historic demolition job on the Australian Public Service and Canberra's economy.

Tony Shepherd's National Commission of Audit has got public service job losses, both explicit and implicit, in every line. If fully implemented, Shepherd's recommendations would result not only in a significantly smaller APS, but one that would never be the same again.

The Public Service Commission, the outfit that's supposed to hold the whole shebang together, with its ubiquitous ''One APS'' branding, would be gone, for a start.

The welfare claims of millions of Australians would be paid not but public servants but by employees of a private sector services operation.

Likewise, when a public servant makes a workers' compensation claim, they would no longer find a fellow bureaucrat on the phone, but a private operator.

That would be several thousand jobs stripped out of Canberra, and that's just for starters.

Shepherd's thoughts on tackling the PS's ''classification creep'' problem - middle managers with not enough people to manage - makes chilling reading for anybody whose livelihood is derived from the ACT's local economy.

Bringing the public service's manager-to-worker ratio into line with private sector standards, the commission of audit reckons, could allow 10,000 middle managers at APS 6, EL1 and EL2 level to be jettisoned, although the final report stops short of calling for the full implementation.

But those are the jobs, paying salaries between $75,000 and $120,000, that keep this town ticking - that pay the mortgages, the car repayments, the school fees and most importantly underpin Canberra's service sector.

Losing 5000 of them would hurt. Badly.

Then there is the bureaucracy's own service sector; the so-called ''backroom functions'' identified as hopelessly inefficient and wasteful by Shepherd's report.

In human resources, for example, the commission calculates the government spends $4700 each year per employee, twice as much as the private sector.

Shepherd wants HR, payroll, management, the whole lot, consolidated into one ''shared services'' outfit eliminating waste, duplication, inefficiency and at least a couple of thousand mostly Canberra-based public servants.

The thousands more livelihoods that would be lost in the unsurprising plan to absorb Defence Materiel back into Defence and to cut the numbers at the Russell complex back to 1998 levels would form another brick in the wall of pain Canberra is facing. And that is only the beginning of the abolitions, mergers, sell-off or reviews that Shepherd has prescribed.

There were plenty of guesstimates flying about on Thursday but the truth is nobody - not even Shepherd - knows for sure how many jobs would be gone once the dust settled from full implementation of the 86 recommendations.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has said several times that not all of the review will be adopted. We will have to wait until budget time, in 12 days, to be told what is in and what is out.

But with only half of Shepherd's plans quite sufficient to plunge families, businesses and communities in Canberra into a world of pain, we are all in for a nervous couple of weeks.

26 comments

  • Thank you for the article. Peter Martin has also exposed the unbalanced approach of the report. It completely ignores cutting tax concessions to the wealthy as a way of increasing government revenue. Why? Maybe because the Business Council wants to protect these welfare payments for the top end of town.

    Commenter
    Ranger Reg
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 6:53AM
    • Well because government revenue was beyond the scope of the commission. Not that it stopped them touching the minimum wage...

      Commenter
      hyperstimulated
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 7:54AM
    • It also didn't stop them recommending selling off anything that makes money, based purely on the ideology that governments have no right providing services for profit. The principle seems to be that governments cannot make money only spend it, and any expense should be cut regardless of social impact. Talk about a sprint to the bottom.

      Commenter
      Nick
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 9:41AM
  • Canberra has had it too good for too long, its time to shape up. We are all in this together.

    Commenter
    Ted
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 6:56AM
    • The ignorance of the average 'Strayan in having anything but the most perfunctory idea of what a person employed by the APS does is truly staggering; the idea that jobs in Canberra are - somehow - not as important as, say, a tradesman, is a complete and utter furphy generated by a manifestly wrong Tall Poppy syndrome driven by fomented class hatred.

      Commenter
      Xolin
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 8:19AM
    • Ted, if thousands of people lose their jobs in Canberra, the entire ACT will be on the brink of recession. It's hard to "be in this together" when you don't have a job as a direct result of one report and one government's resentment of your livelihood.

      Commenter
      Mads
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 8:38AM
    • Mate I hope you lose your job. You're talking about people here. With families, mortages, rent etc. If a private organisation lost this percentage of their workforce, you'd squeal to government they weren't doing enough to save jobs. Apparently public servants are souless and not deserving of your sympathy. You're a great bloke.

      Commenter
      rusta
      Location
      the berra
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 8:45AM
    • Ted I am sorry but you have not got a clue, try working amongst the ordinary people of Canberra, the blue collar worker and a majority of which earn, HARD EARNED, less than $50k per year.and are perceived as 2nd class citizens by this wonderful Green controlled ACT Labor Government and definetly perceived as such by the ACT Labr federal members
      and to any nay sayers of above you have not got a clue either.

      Commenter
      NITRO GANGSTER
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 11:27AM
    • Recent reports show the average Canberran Public Servant is earning over $100,000 per year. Most of Australia is not. Canberra Public Servants simply do not realise how good they have it. (My friend has a 23 year old daughter earning $110,000+ salary - no university degree, in the PS in Canberra) Reform is desperately needed.

      Commenter
      Milly
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 1:40PM
  • Canberra is a boom town, a mining town whose product is not gold or iron ore but public policy. Those with more than a goldfish memory have gone through this under Howard and well remember the dreary days under late Hawke and Keating where a bus ticket to Civic required Ministerial approval.

    It wil change, but a wholesale slash and burn is not the answer. But Canberra also needs to stop thinking that it has a million plus head of population and work to a 250 000 level for the next 10 years.

    Commenter
    Outraged of Palmerston
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 7:04AM

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