Election 2022: Politics of public servants ratchets up during final campaign days

By Melissa Coade

May 16, 2022

Who gets the gig? (Monkey Business/Adobe)

With five more days until the federal election, the future of the APS has been drawn into sharp focus by the major parties as they make a last-ditch attempt to appeal to Australian voters.

Discussing real wage cuts and wage stagnation, Anthony Albanese said people living on the minimum wage could not afford to go backwards. The Labor leader told the ABC’s Insiders program at the weekend that his party would make a submission to the Fair Work Commission to lift the lowest wages by $1 an hour.

“There’s a very clear divide here: A government that says that low wage growth was a key feature of their economic architecture; and Labor that says we want an economy that works for people, not the other way around,” Albanese said.

Lifting productivity was Labor’s aim, Albanese explained, and did not include the government taking direct action to give APS employees a real wage increase. This month the Reserve Bank warned as salary increases lagged behind inflation, real wages could shrink by as much as 3% in 2022.

“We will negotiate public service awards in the usual way,” Albanese said.

“We’ll negotiate in good faith at the appropriate time as part of the award bargaining process.”

Labor’s plan to attract the ‘best and brightest’ talent to the public service would be underpinned by its reform agenda for wasteful government spending on consultants and contractors, Albanese added. 

“One of the things that we will do, and we’ve made very clear, is that we need to revitalise the public service. We need to stop the contracting out that’s occurred, the use of labour hire, the gutting of the capacity of the public service,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the Liberals have purchased political advertising targeting voters in Canberra warning the work of APS contractors and consultants were under threat if the Coalition was voted out of government. 

A newspaper headline features at the centre of the ad graphic, announcing Labor’s cost-saving platform about targeting wasteful government spending on inefficient and excessive consultant spend. 

“Your job is at risk,” an ominous slogan with the font of ‘your’ underlined in red text read.

“Don’t risk your job. Don’t risk Labor/Greens,” it goes on. 

As of Monday, the political ad, which has been circulating on Facebook for six days, has garnered 250 laughter reactions, 134 likes, 31 angry emojis and three reactions expressing surprise. 

A commenter named James Forge offered his own take on the ad, extending its message: “At serious risk of becoming a secure ongoing position at a less ridiculously high pay rate,” he said, referring to the argument more permanent APS staff leads to costs savings. 

Another man, named John Van Buuren, remarked that over his career working as a contractor for government, he saw public servants leave for the private sector because of a growing trend that relied on consultant work.

“Australia needs more public servants, not less.” Van Buuren said. 

“I was a contractor for 30 years and I saw a lot of corporate knowledge walk about the door during periodic freezes on contractors.”

Chris Mac, who claimed to be a retired public servant who worked for the APS for more than 37 years, also sledged the ad.

“They can apply for the new full time jobs in the restored public service and give ‘frank and fearless advice’ like it did before [John] Howard started to rip it to shreds,” Mac said.


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