Election 2022: Albanese goes for Coalition jugular on APS job cuts

By Melissa Coade

May 19, 2022

Anthony Albanese
Australian Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese delivers his speech to the National Press Club. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The Labor leader has savaged the Liberals’ latest plan to slash $2.7 billion from the public service over forward estimates to pay for costly election promises. 

Anthony Albanese delivered a blistering rebuke of Scott Morrison’s announcement this week to increase the dreaded efficiency dividend on the Australian Public Service

“They stood up and said ‘We’re going to gut the public service even more’. Well, you know that leads to? Robodebt,” he said of a bungled attempt to claw back Centrelink debts from citizens who were not actually owing

A Federal Court decision handed down last June described the robodebt scandal as a ‘stuff up’ that saw the commonwealth unlawfully assert at least $1.763 billion in debts against roughly 433,000 Australians between July 2015 and November 2019.

The government was made to pay $112 million in compensation to about 394,000 people, and refund more than $751 million in debts as part of the class action.

Funding cuts to the APS does not ultimately save taxpayers’ money, the man vying to be the next Australian prime minister said, because it eroded essential services, led to more waste, and in the worst case scenario cost lives

“If you take humans out of human services, it has devastating consequences for real people. It cost lives, as well as over a billion dollars to taxpayers,” Albanese said. 

Albanese made his remarks as part of a special federal election address to the National Press Club. 

Morrison opted out of doing the same to do some last-minute campaigning in electorates. He is the first prime minister in more than 50 years to refuse to address the Press Club ahead of the polls. 

Morrison fobbed off criticism this week that his foreshadowed APS cost cuts were meanspirited.

“It doesn’t impact on programs or services at all. It never has,” the PM told reporters in Darwin on Tuesday. 

Should Labor win the federal election this weekend, Albanese said, the first thing his government would do is set the Department of Finance and Treasury to task tracking down the Coalition’s ‘waste and rorts’. He also pointed to the government’s $60 billion error in the costing of its JobKeeper program during the COVID-19 pandemic and cited examples of the Coalition creating multiple funds to ‘treat taxpayer money like Liberal Party money’. 

“This is a government that spent $70 billion between MYEFO in December and March– $70 billion without a single offset,” Albanese said.

“This is the most wasteful government in Australian political history,” he added, demanding more transparency over the Coalition agreement to form a government.

The written deal between the Liberal and National Parties remained secret from public knowledge, Albanese claimed, arguing it gave some leverage to Nationals leader and deputy PM to make unfettered spending commitments.

“Barnaby Joyce, who knows what he has promised around the country out of some secret deal,” he said. 

“They’ve spent a billion dollars on advertising themselves, including how good they are on climate. There’s a savings for you.”

The Labor party will release the costings for its campaign pledges on Thursday

Albanese referenced part of this costings detail, saying the ALP would save $750 million by ditching some of the Coalition’s election spending promises. He also underscored a Labor plan to wind back government spend on consultants, labour-hire and contractors and reinvest $3 billion in the APS.

“What you won’t see from us is the waste and the rorts — it’s got to end; and we’ve got to prioritise growing the economy and productivity,” he said. 

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