The time for undermining the APS is over, according to a new policy document published by the Australian Greens that promises to restore public service jobs to match 2012 levels, put an end to excessive outsourcing, and free bureaucrats from participating in public debate.
The political party issued a statement about its plan to ‘revitalise’ the public service, listing seven action items to lift capability.
Among the bold promises for reform are a public sector wage boost by 4% per annum over the next four years, which the Greens say will ‘value public sector workers’, and the imposition of a spending limit for outsourcing labour-hire to Big Four consultancy firms to no more than 7.5% of a government agency’s budget.
Senator Larissa Waters, the Greens deputy leader and public sector spokesperson, said the ‘hollowing’ out of the APS by successive Liberal and Labor governments had led to job cuts within departments and growth in the privatisation of essential services. ‘Palming off’ this labour to BigFour firms had only served the consultants, she added, who are listed as some of the nation’s biggest political donors.
“Since 2012 successive governments have slashed a total of 17,000 full-time jobs from the public service, while at the same time funnelling billions into the bank accounts of consultancy firms like KPMG and Deloitte, including $850 million in 2020 alone,” Waters said in a statement.
“Between them the Big Four have donated more than $5.4 million to the major parties since 2012, including nearly $700,000 in 2020-21.
“Contrary to the neoliberal propaganda, privatising essential services does not save money nor produce better outcomes. It makes services less efficient and puts decision-making in the hands of for-profit multinationals.”
Waters was critical of how Labor had treated the public sector during its time in power, highlighting decisions made during the time prime minister Julia Gillard led the country to ‘launch a massive cull of public servants’. The senator said it was an unfortunate fact that the Liberals took that approach and accelerated it, ‘ramp[ing up payments to the Big Four, particularly during the pandemic’.
“To guarantee that the education, housing, health, social security, environmental protection and infrastructure needs of our country are being met we need a well-staffed and highly skilled public service that is able to provide effective and impartial policy advice to government, and carry out its responsibilities free from political interference,” Waters said.
The Greens candidate for Canberra said local jobs had been affected by government decisions to outsource so much government work and described it as a ‘disaster’ for young people who had aspirations to build a career in the public service.
“I hear from a lot of young Canberrans who’ve found that outsourcing means they can’t get basic job security, have no real prospective career path, and can’t afford to rock the boat in any way,” Hollo said.
“And many older, experienced people are deeply troubled that the crucial institutions they’ve dedicated their lives to are being eroded and privatised. That’s terrible for them, but also for our expectations that government should get frank and fearless advice.”