More APS jobs and fewer consultants: Labor 

By Chris Johnson

April 6, 2022

Jim Chalmers
Treasurer Jim Chalmers. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

A federal Labor government would look to employ more public servants while drastically cutting the reliance on consultants.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said the nation could save billions of dollars if the growing push to engage private contractors in the APS were reviewed and if arbitrary caps to public service numbers were lifted.

“I spent a lot of time with accounting firms and consulting firms. They do first-class work and nobody is saying that we end that,” Chalmers said.

“But there is an opportunity, I think, to have a good look at the spending that goes into that part of budget, and to work out whether we could do more with less.

“More in terms of capacity, less in terms of spending on contractors and consultants.”

Chalmers said savings “in the low billions” could be made by reducing the reliance on consultants.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Chalmers described last week’s federal budget as “unworthy of the Australian people” and the struggles they are currently enduring.

“A budget unfit for the scale and scope and severity of the challenges our country and our world are grappling with,” he said.

“Australians deserved so much better, and the challenges of the moment demanded so much more.”

He described the Morrison government as the “most wasteful government since federation” and said spending priorities had to change. 

“If it’s not the time to flick a switch to austerity, it is the time to flick a switch to quality, to smart investments in the future,” Chalmers said.

“Because the best way to repair the budget is to get the economy growing in a broader, more sustainable, more inclusive way.”

He said a Labor government would deliver the “right kind of growth” and invest to create more jobs.

“This has never been more important than right now where we know that our economic pressures lie on the supply side,” he said.

“That’s why the quality of spending matters as much as the quantity.”

Chalmers turned specifically to the public service when questioned about saving measures Labor would implement.

He said arbitrary caps to APS employment numbers had meant the government relied too much on private consultants to do the work that would have normally been done by actual public servants.

Consultancy fees was one area where savings could be made, which would naturally mean public sector job numbers could increase.

The government, however, insists private consultants in large numbers are here to stay in the public service.

Ministers lined up to defend the government spend on consultants and to suggest Labor was only promising to increase public sector job numbers because it couldn’t find ways to boost employment in the private sector.  


Chalmers’ speech holds important proposals for public sector under a Labor government

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