Commitment to climate science demands jobs to respond to crisis, union says

By Melissa Coade

Monday May 10, 2021

Townsville, 2014, cyclone Dylan
Townsville, 2014, with cyclone Dylan expected to make landfall between Lucinda and Proserpine. (AAP Image/Brian Cassey)

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has called for the federal government to put money where its mouth is and make a big staffing announcement to boost capabilities for disaster resilience and recovery, with a focus on jobs for regional Queensland. 

Since December 2013, the CPSU says more than 200 Australian public service jobs have been cut in regional Queensland. The union published a heatmap indicating where the cuts to public service jobs were greatest felt.

CPSU heat map of Qld APS job losses since 2013.

CPSU Queensland Regional Secretary Sally Gunner said following a recent announcement from the prime minister that his government would commit to action on disaster resilience and recovery, she hoped to also see news of extra hires.

“Since 2013 this government has cut over 10% of jobs in regional Queensland and 14.9% of Townsville public sector jobs, all while slashing climate change mitigation funding,” Ms Gunner said. 

“If the government really wants to support communities and mitigate future risk, then it must invest in feet on the ground and in the agencies with climate mandates. You can’t support communities and mitigate risks if you don’t have the local staff to do it.”

Around 7.9% of APS regional jobs have been slashed by the federal Coalition government over the past eight years, and for those based in regional Queensland the figure is 10.2%.

The union highlighted other resourcing decisions by government that have impacted climate change mitigation, including the dismantling of the Climate Commission and the Climate Change Authority, axing the Carbon Pricing Mechanism and the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Program and taking away half a billion dollars from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Deep funding cuts and severe job losses have been felt across all agencies and departments that have any climate science mandate, Ms Gunner said. 

“The fact is we have communities in Queensland and the Torres Strait who are in the frontline of climate change — they need more than just a fly-in-fly-out announcement. They need long-term investment in their communities,” Ms Gunner said. 

Calls for the federal government to make a staffing announcement in support of improving capability to respond to natural disasters, also came with a cautious welcome from the union. A lot of work is needed to make up for the job cuts felt across all agencies and departments with a climate science mandate, Ms Gunner added. 


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