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Coalition will sharpen PS razor

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey  releases the coalitions federal election policy costings.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey releases the coalitions federal election policy costings. Photo: Getty Images

The Coalition will hit the public service with a bigger efficiency dividend if elected on Saturday, ripping another $428 million from departmental budgets.

The new cuts, on top of the opposition's plan to axe 12,000 public service jobs, were announced on Thursday as part of the Coalition's long-awaited policy costings.

The savings plan also includes caps on public sector consultancies, advertising and travel.

The cuts are additional to Labor's increased efficiency dividend, which demands most departments and agencies strip 2.25 per cent from their annual budgets

The dividend will rise to 2.5 per cent from the 2013-2014 financial year, if Tony Abbott prevails on Saturday. Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey also warned on Thursday that the public service would be squarely in the sights of a ''commission of audit'' that will be formed as one of the first acts of an incoming Coalition government.

The package, which has been subjected to the Parliamentary Budget Office process, also contains a plan to cut $4.5 billion from the foreign aid budget in the four-year forward estimates period and $650 million from the Murray Darling water buyback scheme.

The opposition also announced $11.5 billion of, mostly roads, infrastructure projects, partly offset by dumping nearly $7 billion in Labor building works.

In other news for Canberra, the Coalition says it will save $45 million over four years from the reduction of the former Department of Climate Change and $42 million from scrapping the trial of pre-commitment technology in poker machines.

Mr Hockey announced a package of $9 billion in savings on Thursday, saying it took to $42 billion the amount of savings it is claiming, including ''modest adjustments'' of $2 billion of interest saved on reduced debt.

The savings would trim the bottom line of the $400 billion annual federal budget by $6 billion over four years in response to what the Coalition has consistently claimed is a ''budget crisis''.

The costings were signed off by a three-man panel of former Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Peter Shergold, former Queensland Auditor General Len Scanlan and former Treasury official Geoff Carmody. The Coalition costings document from the Parliamentary Budget Office will not be provided for public scrutiny.

Mr Hockey's announcement was immediately dismissed as a ''farce'' by Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. He said Labor's increases to the efficiency dividend had been calculated to be ''as much as the service can bear,'' and that Coalition plans for further increases were irresponsible.

Launching his costings in Melbourne, Mr Hockey foreshadowed even more pain for the public service through a commission of audit and singled out Canberra for particular attention.

''The commission of audit is going to focus on getting rid of the waste and having a more efficient public sector in Canberra,'' he said.

''We have been able to identify projects like $160,000 in examinations of sexuality and Islamic interpretations of reproductive health technology in Egypt.

''I don't see that as a good spend of Australian taxpayers' money. We have to get rid of the waste, have a more efficient public sector.''

According to the Coalition's documents the new efficiency dividend is a ''modest'' saving delivering ''$428 million through prudent limitations on government advertising and consultancies as well as on government travel''.

The public sector union CPSU immediately hit out at the announcement, saying the new efficiency dividend, combined with Labor's increase in July, could cost an extra 6250 public service jobs.

The union's national secretary, Nadine Flood, said big cuts to the public service workforce must inevitably result in reduced levels of frontline services. ''This will knock services around the country for a six,'' Ms Flood said. ''Centrelink queues will get longer, there'll be fewer people inspecting at Quarantine, and fewer people checking the weather at the Bureau of Meteorology. You name it, it'll be hit.''

11 comments

  • Whether we like it or not we as a nation have to live within our means. If the public wants all these services provided by the government in a timely and effective way then it needs to consider more carefully where the funding to manage those programs.
    Having worked in both the public and private organisations I can tell you that the level of waste is not all that different. Where there is waste is in the far greater level of scrutiny and assurance that is place on public organisations. If this burden was dumped on private businesses most would be screaming from the roof tops about ‘red tape’ and unrealistic regulations.

    Commenter
    James
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    September 06, 2013, 10:04AM
    • I've yet to identify any federal public servant at any level who would run their OWN business as they witness how the PS is run. Wastage is extreme in some of my experiences and the prospect of cuts is not something I fear

      Commenter
      SAINT V
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      September 06, 2013, 11:47AM
      • I once worked in a government agency that spent - I kid you not - $5 million on a piece of software that was actually the older/obsolete version of the current software they had. Not surprisingly, the new (ie. old) software didn't do what they wanted, and they quietly (I don't blame them) abandoned the project and devised a manual workaround. This project was run by a team of senior officers (including several SES officers).

        Commenter
        Derek
        Date and time
        September 06, 2013, 12:24PM
    • Abbott should hire Ari Gold (tv's entourage) to go through all departments and agencies with his paint gun.

      Commenter
      stoney
      Date and time
      September 06, 2013, 11:53AM
      • To the people above who think this is justified and public servants don't live in the real world you are entitled to your opinion. That is irrelevant. The fact is Abbott screeched like a banshee accusing Gillard of lying about the carbon tax, now the Coalition is lying to everyone about cuts. Ninety percent of their cuts are being hidden in their Commission Of Audit. Abbott said yesterday everything is on the table. By failing to fully implement Ginski they are cutting seven billion out of education. Abbott's on again, off again Internet stuff up yesterday shows he has a hidden agenda. What's it going to be called Tony, Pellware? The Real Tony will all be revealed soon, a Bob Santamaria clone who will punish unions, workers, the public service. He has even announced he is going to rewrite history. Gee maybe Curtin wasn't our war time PM, maybe it was John Howard. Tomorrow the school bully becomes school captain. Canberra is about to be punished, along with the ABC etc, etc, etc.

        Commenter
        Pants On Fire
        Date and time
        September 06, 2013, 12:10PM
        • Reducing the Commonwealth public service by 50K would be the greatest economic reform in Australia's history.

          Commenter
          Economist
          Date and time
          September 06, 2013, 12:18PM
          • In my experience, cuts always target the 'doers' rather than the SES which always seems to get bigger. We already have way too much work to do, and not enough bodies to do it. Given an SES earns 3 times what an EL1 techie does, losing a few SES and gaining some 'doers' would be budget neutral - and would raise productivity noticeably. But of course the powers that be will never do that.

            Commenter
            Red
            Location
            ACT
            Date and time
            September 06, 2013, 1:08PM
            • Look up 'efficiency dividend' and it is an annual reduction in the amount of resources consumed for the same level of output. The issue that exists with the 'efficiency dividend' in the public service, is that there is an annual reduction in resources, but with the continual revisions to and introductions of public programs, the output increases. I have yet to see situations where functions and duties are done away with as a result of 'efficiency dividends', rather the duties and functions continue and are supplemented by new duties and functions due to new or improved government initiatives.

              Commenter
              Dee2
              Date and time
              September 06, 2013, 1:24PM
              • Ask any former public servant, and indeed serving public servants there is room for a further 10% efficiency dividend. The problem that is never dealt with is public servants who game the system and do not perform, often wilfully and without shame. The majority of public servants do the right thing, it is just the deliberate non-performers that continue to be ignored, because of incompetent, spineless managers, and lengthy processes to "manage" these people out of the public service. I hope the new Abbott Government makes it much easier to get rid of the dead wood. Let the performers stay, chuck out the lazy, stupid and deliberate non-performers.

                Commenter
                John Baron
                Location
                Canberra
                Date and time
                September 06, 2013, 3:54PM
                • Canberra has too many EL 1s - one of every four at senior middle management. This was created during the Howard years.

                  Time to get some balance back although I doubt the libs will do much but whine how its all labor's fault.

                  Commenter
                  wear the fox hat
                  Date and time
                  September 06, 2013, 6:48PM

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