Canberra's unkindest cuts: where the redundancies have fallen

Up to 97 per cent of federal public servants made redundant at major departments under the current cutbacks have come from Canberra. 

Early figures show Canberra is well on track to suffer 6500 job cuts as part of the Abbott government's purge of 16,500 positions across the Commonwealth bureaucracy but the Australian Tax Office could bloat the territory's redundancy burden.

Employers handing out the biggest ratio of voluntary redundancies to Canberrans were the Health Department, where 113 of 116, or 97 per cent, of retrenchments were in the national capital and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which had 232 of 272, or 85 per cent, of ACT-based staff made redundant.

A total of 123 of 151, or 81 per cent, of the Environment Department's paid sackings were targeted in the territory while the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet had granted 66 of 123, or 54 per cent, of redundancies to Canberra staff. 

The Department of Human Services had given half of its 250 redundancies to Canberrans while 39 per cent, or 211 of 537, of the reduction at the Defence Department's civilian workforce – which included redundancies as well as natural attrition – were in the ACT. 


Mercifully for the territory economy so far the Tax Office, which will shed the most staff of any Commonwealth employer during the restructure, had concentrated the vast majority of its redundancies outside of the capital.

Just 146 of the ATO's 1338 retrenchments, or 11 per cent, were from Canberra but any sustained increase at the Commonwealth tax collector will likely see Canberra carry more than its proportional burden of cutbacks.

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Forty per cent of cutbacks so far, or 1016 of 2486 of redundancies outlined in the latest figures, were in Canberra which was in line with the proportion of the federal public service based in Canberra.

If this ratio continues it will create 6500 public service redundancies in Canberra by 2017 but this could be blown out by the ATO which has another 2400 redundancies yet to be recorded. 

The figures across the departments were made public in the form of answers to questions on notice in the federal parliament asked by ACT Labor Senator Kate Lundy and Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann and were accurate as of the middle of this year.

The next round of fresh data detailing cuts was expected to be in annual reports released in the coming month. 

Ms Brodtmann said the brunt of cuts at Defence, which would lose 2400 civilian jobs by 2017, was expected to be borne by Canberra staff.

"The government's Commission of Audit actually recommended that the entirety of the cuts should occur here in Canberra," said Ms Brodtmann, the shadow parliamentary secretary for Defence.

She was concerned the looming "first principles review" of Defence could lead to reductions further to those outlined in the budget in May. 

"Defence is one of the largest employers in Canberra, and so these cuts will have a significant impact on our community," Ms Brodtmann said. 


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