The government has broadly kept to the restrained growth of the public sector seen in the budgets of recent years. But the Nationals leadership think there’s still room for government jobs to decentralise.
In 2019-2020 the budgeted Average Staffing Level of the Australian Public Service will rise by 1272, less than 1% of the roughly 166,000 federal civilian workforce that the Coalition government has maintained in office.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says the government’s careful management of resources has allowed it to be agile in directing talent towards areas of emerging need.
The departments and agencies that will see the biggest boost to employee numbers, not including contractors, are:
- Australian Taxation Office: +688
- Department of Home Affairs: +425
- Australian Federal Police: +312
- Department of Defence (civilian): +262
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: +197
- Department of Industry, Innovation and science: +153
- Australian Securities and Investment Commission: +149
- Bureau of Statistics: +133
- Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission: +115
- Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission: +108
- Australian Security Intelligence Organisation: +107
- National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency: +92
- Australian Trade and Investment Commission: +88
- Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority: +87
- Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation: +81
Four departments look set to shrink in 2019-2020 based on their allocated average staffing level:
- Department of Health: -259 or 6.4% of existing ASL, attributed to machinery of government changes and grants hub arrangements.
- Department of Veterans Affairs: -108 or 6.2% of existing ASL, attributed to reining in of staffing and use of shared services.
- Department of Agriculture and Water Resources: -217 or 4.6% of existing ASL, attributed to the wrapping up of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.
- Department of Human Services: -209 or less than 1% of existing ASL, attributed to “Net impact of new and past budget measures, departmental efficiencies and the changing nature of workforce composition.” In other words, outsourcing.
‘Sustainable administration’ says Cormann
One graph that has become a staple of the budget documents in recent years compares the departmental expenses as a percentage of total government expenses and ASL as a proportion of the Australian population.
Cormann notes that the overall cost of government administration, including consultants, continues to fall as a proportion of total government expenses — excluding the NDIS and military.
Staffing levels for the general government sector has been stable even as the Australian population and demand for government services continues to grow.
- (a) Expenses data (both total expenses and departmental expenses) represent General Government Sector expenses only.
- (b) Expenses data from 2007-08 through to 2017-18 is derived from Final Budget Outcome Statements (FBO). From 2018-19 onwards expenses data reflects revised budget and forward estimates as at 2019‑20 Budget.
- (c) Excludes the Department of Defence and the National Disability Insurance Agency.
- (d) ASL excludes military and reserves.
- (e) From 2007-08 to 2017-18, population source: ABS, Australian Demographic Statistics, June 2018, cat. No. 3101.0. Population is based on December quarter Estimates Resident Population.
- (f) From 2018-19 onwards, population source: ABS, Population Projections, Australia, 2017 (base) – 2066, cat. No. 3222.0 (22 November 2018). Population is based on projected population at financial year end.
The epilogue of the decentralisation agenda?
The Nationals leadership team of Michael McCormack and Bridget McKenzie shared responsibility for authoring the regional ‘blue book’ in the 2019-2020 budget papers. A large emphasis of their foreward is celebrating the achievements of the decentraliastion agenda.
The pair claim this budget will establish or move 191 positions to the regions, including:
- 76 relocating with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, from Canberra to Griffith, Mildura, Murray Bridge and Goondiwindi.
- 25 relocating with the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, to Orange.
- 10 relocating with Indigenous Business Australia, from Canberra to regional offices in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.
- 35 relocating with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Indigenous Affairs Group, from Canberra to Broome, Coffs Harbour and Alice Springs.
- 30 positions with Comcare in Darwin and Launceston, including new local staff and relocated employees.
- 15 relocating with Australian Financial Security Authority from Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne to Perth, Hobart and Adelaide.
Other agencies moving home, but not factored in this budget:
- 69 new and relocated positions with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority will be moved to regional areas, including a new regional headquarters in Coffs Harbour and a new office in Airlie Beach.
- The entire Australian Law Reform Commission is relocating from Sydney to Brisbane (approximately 12 positions)
- Aboriginal Hostels Limited will create up to 40 positions in Brisbane, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns, Thursday Island, Mouth Isa, Darwin, Katherine, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Perth, Kalgoorlie, South Hedland, Broome and Derby.
- Following creation of the new Australian Space Agency, it will establish its headquarters in Adelaide, relocating 20 positions.
There will be more, as the government continues to work with portfolio agencies to build on the existing relocations. Infrastructure Minister McCormack and Regional Services Minister McKenzie state:
“Going forward, the government’s continued commitment to identifying decentralisation opportunities is supported by improvements to digital connectivity, helping agencies to connect regardless of location.”