Labor and the public sector union have criticised the government’s refusal to lift the public sector staff cap and adopt common pay and conditions for public servants, as recommended in the recently released Thodey report.
Shadow Minister for the Public Service Katy Gallagher deemed the government response — which was made public on Friday along with the APS review report — as “inadequate” and “weak”.
She said it has shown the government’s true colours when it comes to APS reform.
“The Liberals have spent the last six years slashing $8 billion in ‘savings’ out of the service, including abolishing 19,000 jobs, and overseeing a litany of service failures across the APS,” she said in a statement.
“After sitting on the review for three months, the government has today delivered a totally inadequate response to the considered and substantial work of David Thodey and his team.
“The government’s response is weak and non-committal — fully agreeing to just 15 of the 40 recommendations and providing a miserly $15.1m to ‘initiate reform’.”
In particular, she criticised the rejection of recommendations which called for abolition of the staffing cap, common pay and conditions for public servants, integrity and transparency improvements, more collaboration with states and territories, and better processes to govern the termination of secretaries’ appointments.
The Average Staffing Level (ASL) cap was introduced in the 2015-16 federal budget as an effort to restrict government employment numbers to 2006-07 levels.
The Community and Public Sector Union has also criticised the government’s stance on the staff cap, common core conditions and pay, arguing the recent slashing of departments signified why the recommended changes were needed.
CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said the public sector funding model was broken.
“We know that since 2013, 18,908 or 11.4% of public service jobs have been cut under successive Liberal governments, causing enormous damage to the capacity of the Commonwealth to deliver policy and essential services that all Australians rely upon. It’s time for the government to invest in the services it keep promising Australians,” she said.
“All we have seen from the government today is $15.1 million for the Secretaries Board. That won’t go any way increasing access to services. It won’t answer the millions of unanswered calls to Centrelink, or help the community get to the bottom of their illegal Robodebt, and it won’t help us meet our climate targets.
“A good government would lift the ASL cap and invest in the services Australians need. But Scott Morrison continues to disregard expert findings and chase short term budget wins instead of delivering on his election promises.”
The Thodey report made 40 recommendations, but only 15 of them were accepted in full. Twenty recommendations were partly accepted, two were noted, and three were rejected.
Gallagher said Morrison’s dismissal of key recommendations reflected a missed opportunity to better equip the APS for future challenges.
“The work of the APS matters and it deserves better leadership from the executive government of the day,” she said.
“There is no doubt that there are challenges ahead for the APS but the government’s response today indicates that it will do very little to prepare for those challenges.
“Scott Morrison doesn’t get the APS, he doesn’t respect the APS or its workforce and he clearly doesn’t understand its important role in delivering services to Australians.”