'Link pay to performance in public service': Abbott
Tony Abbott wants senior public services to have bonuses that are linked to performance. Photo: Lee Besford
Tony Abbott’s revival of a plan to link senior bureaucrats’ bonuses to their success in cutting the cost of red tape is drawing criticism from the public service union and the federal government.
The Opposition Leader said today the plan for monitor bonuses remained Coalition policy, as he released a discussion paper from the Coalition deregulation task force.
He also said a future Coalition government might have to phase in or delay some of its initiatives because of the poor structural state of the budget.
As well, many portfolio areas the Coalition takes to the next election will not involve any new spending at all but will focus on administrative changes.
Protesters disrupted the start of Mr Abbott’s speech and he was also mobbed by a small group of protesters as he reached his car to leave the conference.
The Opposition Leader announced the establishment of a working group to develop reforms to boost productivity, to be chaired by Queensland Liberal MP Steven Ciobo.
In a speech in Melbourne, Mr Abbott said cutting red tape was crucial to lifting the nation’s productivity performance.
‘‘Under the Coalition, every significant government agency and department will be required to quantify the costs that their reporting and compliance regimes impose,’’ he said.
‘‘Every agency and department will be given an annual target for red tape cost reductions, cumulatively at least $1 billion a year that will have to be met if senior public service bonuses are to be paid.’’
A Coalition government would convene a new business advisory council three times a year.
The Coalition’s deregulation task force also proposes an annual $1 billion reduction in red tape, the repeal of the carbon tax and the minerals resource rent tax, and the establishment of a one-stop shop for environmental approvals.
It proposes requiring departments and agencies to reduce red tape every year and recording the reduction in annual reports.
Other proposals put out for discussion are:
- creating a dedicated unit within each department and agency that is charged with driving red tape reduction;
- requiring departments and agencies to quantify the cost to business and individuals of complying with the regulations administered by them;
- linking the remuneration of senior public servants to quantified and proven reductions in red tape; and
- including annual red tape reduction targets in the performance criteria to be considered in determining the re-appointment of departmental secretaries.
Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood said performance pay was a failed experiment in the public service under the Howard government.
‘‘It’s disappointing to see Mr Abbott propose that as an easy solution for complex problems,’’ she said.
‘‘Cutting red tape sounds good to everyone but in reality is a complex process.
‘‘Mr abbott seems to be lumping in one basket everything from sensible reduction of duplication to very important environmental and safety standards.
‘‘The community does want appropriate regulations to ensure scrutiny of taxpayer funds and a safe clean economy.
‘‘Evidence here and overseas shows a high performing public service is one marked by collaboration and whole of government solutions.
‘‘Individual performance bonuses have been shown to do little to promote that form of working and the best policy solutions.’’
Former departmental secretary Allan Hawke repeated his criticisms of performance bonuses.
‘‘There’s no place for performance pay in an apolitical merit based public service devoted to accountability and serving the government of the day,’’ he said.
Finance Minister Penny Wong accused Mr Abbot of recycling his ideas.
She said Mr Abbott had said in May that a future Coalition government would offer public servants incentives to reduce red tape.
‘‘We’ll cut business red tape costs by at least a billion dollars a year by requiring each government agency to quantify the costs of its reporting and compliance rules and delivering an annual savings target,’’ Mr Abbott told Parliament in his Budget reply speech.
Senator Wong said Mr Abbott was trying to ‘‘paint it as new’’.
‘‘Mr Abbott says the Opposition will establish a Business Advisory Council but this Government has already set up a Business Advisory Forum, where leading business groups meet with the Prime Minister and First Ministers about reducing red tape,’’ she said.
‘‘Since 2007, the Government has worked hard to reduce the regulatory burden on business.
‘‘Already, 17 out of 27 deregulation priorities under the COAG Seamless National Economy agenda have been implemented.
‘‘The Productivity Commission has estimated that 17 of the 27 reforms, fully implemented, could reduce business costs by an estimated $4 billion per year and potentially increase GDP by over $6 billion annually, or around $250 for each Australian.’’
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