Joint Media Release with the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Brendan O'Connor.

A Shorten Labor Government will commit to achieving sustainable efficiencies throughout the public sector, without compromising jobs, service and ability to deliver sound policy.

This is in stark contrast to the Liberals who want to achieve savings through harsh efficiency dividends and through privatisation and outsourcing.

Labor will not proceed with the increase to the efficiency dividend as announced in the 2016-17 budget.

Instead, Labor will achieve the same level of budget savings as the Government’s measure, with savings from areas which minimise the impact on jobs and the positive role of the public service.

In particular, Labor is confident that genuine efficiencies can be achieved by targeting ballooning contractor and consultant costs, advertising and travel.

The Parliamentary Budget Office has advised that in 2013-14, $1.9 billion in departmental expenditure was spent on consultants and contractors in the public service.  This grew to $2.3 billion in 2014-15 – an increase of 20 per cent.  Further, the average of Management and Business Professionals and Administrative Services costs as reported on Austender has averaged $7.5 billion over the past six years.

Labor will conduct a review, to be concluded by 1 January 2017 to investigate how to replace the 2016-17 Budget Efficiency Dividend and the 2015-16 MYEFO Efficiency Target for national cultural and collecting institutions in the 2017-18 Budget with new measures that achieve the same savings, without targeting staffing costs.

This review will focus on enabling the shift towards e-gov and digital transformation, however still ensuring that this does not compromise service, accessibility and the capability of the public sector. It will feed into the 2017-18 Budget process.

Labor will also commit to re-investing the $500 million the Government set aside for public sector transformation to keep Medicare in public hands.  This funding will also go to improving service provision at the Australian Tax Office and the Department of Human Services to reduce Centrelink call waiting times and increase call centre staffing.

The Government’s new efficiency dividend would see further cuts being made to essential areas of the public sector, already under pressure, hindering many departments ability to deliver quality public services and public policy. Labor recognises that privatisation and outsourcing can threaten quality public services and understands the social and economic impacts of wide scale cuts and austerity on both jobs and services. 

The way the Abbott-Turnbull Government has treated its own workforce is unacceptable.

Not only have the Liberals slashed thousands of critical jobs from the CSIRO, the Australian Tax Office, ASIC and other critical agencies but the Government’s Commonwealth Public Sector bargaining policy is unfair, ideological and has resulted in a complete mess.

Malcolm Turnbull must be judged by what he does for workers, not what he says.

Only Labor will ensure our hardworking public service delivers better services and policy capability for our community.