Canberra's public service casualty list likely to peak at less than 6000

Canberra's public service casualty list likely to peak at less than 6000

The Abbott government's cull of the Australian Public Service has cost about 5700 jobs in Canberra, with the minister in charge hinting that the worst of the blood-letting may be over.

The official job figures published this week show the direst predictions, of 12000 public servants losing their jobs in the capital, have failed to materialise but local political and business leaders say the city is feeling the pain.

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz said on Wednesday he was reviewing the hiring freeze.

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz said on Wednesday he was reviewing the hiring freeze.

Photo: Andrew Meares

The latest figures from the Australian Public Service Commission show about 59,600 public servants working in permanent and temporary jobs in the ACT.

In June 2013, just months before the Coalition was elected, the number was 65,353.

Public service minister Eric Abetz said on Wednesday that after 11,000 APS jobs were shed across the nation in 2014 he was now reviewing the hiring freeze, suggesting the period of sharp contraction of the bureaucracy might be coming to an end.


But while the worst predictions of Labor politicians and trade unionists have not come true, Property Council of the ACT executive director Catherine Carter says the impact on the local economy of the job losses has been "profound".

"Those job losses from the public service has had an impact in Canberra," Ms Carter said.

"I'd point to not only the job losses themselves but the Canberra property market and the underlying sub-lease [office] vacancy rate that tells the story, frankly.

"After years of topping the table of state and territory economies, the ACT has recently fallen to sixth of eight economies.

"Building approvals are down and unemployment is trending upwards."

Chief Minister Andrew Barr's office did not respond to requests for comment before deadline on Wednesday.

Canberra Liberals leader Jeremy Hanson conceded there had been pain but said he too believed the worst might now be over.

"I would hope the bulk of the heavy lifting that has been done by Canberra is over," Mr Hanson said.

"There's no doubt there's been a concerted effort by the federal government to clean up Labor's mess and there's no doubt Canberra has paid more than its fair share and I would hope that is over, and based on the indications I have, there shouldn't be much more pain."

Mr Hanson accused the Chief Minister and his Labor colleagues of "scaremongering" over public service jobs.

"He thinks that will help him politically and cover over the gaps in his own economic credentials," the Opposition Leader said.

"When I speak to business there is no doubt that a lot of the problems they are facing are coming from ACT regulations and a lack of support from the ACT government.

"Although Andrew Barr will try to blame everything, debt deficit on the federal government, the reality is that the debt we face the deficit we face is for the most part a result our own ACT economy and budget."

Noel Towell

Noel Towell is State Political Editor for The Age

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