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Skies just got bleaker for the bureaucracy

The cloud of uncertainty hanging over Canberra’s federal public servants just got worse.

For that kick, the workers can thank Tony Abbott, the man who looks set to become their new boss in just over a week.

It is terrible people management to say an agency of 300 jobs is going to be shifted to regional and rural Australia, without saying who’s in the firing line.

What is this information vacuum supposed to do, other than unsettle people?

No doubt some people would like a sea change, leaving behind Canberra’s deep chill for the coast and a life by the beaches.

But you don’t even have to look out the window at today’s glorious spring-like weather to realise this is a great place to live and work and raise kids.

There are always good arguments put forward to trim the public service but the problem with losing 12,000 positions by natural attrition – resignations and retirements – is losing experienced people and possibly freezing out the bright young graduates.

And the problem with more voluntary redundancies is losing the good people.

Just ask John Howard, who supervised the departure of an estimated 30,000 public servants.

They took the money and ran – to their own consultancies. They knew exactly what their former departments needed and, with fewer staff back there, reaped the benefits of contracting out services.

Why should we expect any different this time?

Sure, departmental staff lists will be shorter. But the budgets will be paying contractors.

Never mind, so long as the Coalition government can tell the Canberra-bashers elsewhere that the dreaded public service has been trimmed, all will be fine.

And Abbott clearly has in mind winning marginal seats by relocating public servants, to Gosford and northern Australia.

As if by magic, the public servants shifted are no longer a drain on the purse, but will boost the local economy.

And if the lure of the ocean does not work, staff of the agency earmarked to be relocated, might find the ACT bureaucracy extending a welcoming hand.

The salaries would be lower, but it would mean not having to shift the family and find new schools.

However, even with the informal recruiting drive by the ACT, there are not many people to be absorbed by the smaller bureaucracy.

14 comments so far

  • He's only having to do this because of the debt Labor has created and I had to take a voluntary redundancy in 2011 as stipulated by the Labor government. Both parties are the same in wanting to cut back the public service but as a result programs will be run less efficiently or not at all. Kettle black saying Abbott is to blame.

    Commenter
    Leah
    Date and time
    August 28, 2013, 1:27PM
    • Australian voters have a right to know exactly what Tony Abbott intends to do Leah.

      Like it or not, that is called Democracy!

      So, can you tell us why you are going to vote for Abbott when he refuses to release the LNP's costings?

      Please tell us why anyone should trust Abbott when he is withholding vital information regarding people's income, lives and careers. Tony Abbott is doing this now, just imagine what he is going to be like if he becomes PM.

      Commenter
      Sharron
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 4:03PM
    • Rubbish, this is as cynical pork barrelling as you can get. Moving departments is hideously expensive, new buildings, new IT infrastrucure and having to replace key staff who can't/won't move. My department is currently in a process of decentralisation and whole push of it (or upside), that you'll get better staff cheaper has largely proven to be false (believe it or not us canberrans aren't the overpaid bludgers everyone thinks we are). Even you use the whole regional development angle, there would countless areas with a greater need than the central coast, it's just that they're not marginal electorates....

      Commenter
      tele12
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 5:52PM
  • The debt is actually quite small when considered in the context of the total budget. Labor had a plan to pay that Debt back within a very short time. Also let us not forget that debt was created in the interest of protecting Australia through the GFC. Now many Libs will say what GFC and they are right we didn't get a GFC because of what Labor did to keep us out. One of the many reasons our credit rating is one of the highest in the world.

    As for job cuts you yourself should know they don't save money. You got a payout and I would have a guess a contractor would have been employed to take your place. Now yes both sides are talking job cuts because it sits well with those outside Canberra the difference of course is the scale and if course Abbott playing games by proposing to move people to but jobs. It is one thing to create new jobs elsewhere ala Labor and the NDS in Geelong but another to move existing jobs.

    Commenter
    Jimmy
    Date and time
    August 28, 2013, 1:51PM
    • That committment is as believable as their promise to reutrn the budget to surplus in 2012/13

      Commenter
      Richo
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 4:51PM
  • How outrageous - a PM candidate announcing in an election they intend making changes to the public service without providing all the fine details? Even worse, people in regional Australia might get a better chance of getting a public service job without having to move away from family and friends, change their kids enrollment at school and so on - I'm shocked! What next - will someone threaten that public servants actually have to win a job on the basis of genuine merit, rather than the current nonsense that gives large numbers of jobs to unqualified candidates for wages far in excess of private sector counterparts? My heart bleeds.

    Commenter
    big whinge
    Date and time
    August 28, 2013, 2:04PM
    • I'm looking forward to it. I came to Canberra as a contractor but got 'Gershoned' into the public service for the last couple of years. I'd be grateful for the cash injection a contract would bring given how many unpaid extra hours I (and most of my colleagues) work now - hours I used to get paid for as a contractor.

      Commenter
      DJ
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 3:11PM
      • As a moderately high income earner I am going to be much better off under a Coalition government and so will my wife if we decide to have a second child. In advance I want to thank the masses of low income earners who will vote Rudd out, thus voting away their child payments and voting for extra tax on their super to ensure I am better off.

        Commenter
        Tim
        Date and time
        August 28, 2013, 4:01PM
        • Good onya Tony, there are far too many public servants who don't produce any results and are a burden on the taxpayer.

          Commenter
          Klangdang
          Location
          Wells Crossing
          Date and time
          August 28, 2013, 4:02PM
          • Abbott/Hockey are missing the point. Unless you eliminate the *programs* you deliver, the public service will not change in terms of size. You can sack 12,000 public servants, but most of those people will just end up back in government as contractors if the same programs have to be delivered to the same standard (this is what happened in 1996). I used to be an IT product specialist in government. There were literally only a dozen or so people with my skills. If someone like me gets retrenched, the government will be forced by necessity to hire them back at ridiculous contract rates.

            Commenter
            Derek
            Date and time
            August 28, 2013, 4:23PM

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