George Street is on tenterhooks after Saturday’s election, with Labor in sight of a remarkable victory — with potentially significant changes to the bureaucracy to follow.
Counting in knife-edged electorates continues today, with Labor confident it could form a majority potentially with the help of an independent and two Katter’s Australia Party MPs. The Liberal-National Party hasn’t conceded defeat, but leader Campbell Newman has walked away from Parliament after losing the seat of Ashgrove to former Labor minister Kate Jones.
Both sides pledged there would be no further cuts to the public service, after a tumultuous term that saw 14,000 bureaucrats sacked. But Labor has vowed to make changes to portfolios and potentially departments, and a new LNP leader may have new ideas of their own.
Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk pledged to reduce the number of ministers from 19 to 14, and cut 12 assistant ministerial positions down to one. Planning was underway to determine which departments could be combined, she said.
The $27 million in savings from reduced office costs and wages would be put towards front line services, Palaszczuk said during the campaign.
Nonetheless, Palaszczuk maintained there would be “no job cuts at all. No job cuts for the public service.”
Labor also announced during the election campaign that ministerial pay would be linked to public service pay rises.
Palaszczuk was highly critical of Newman’s “hand picking” of senior bureaucrats. “They will not be hand-picked, as we have seen the disaster when Campbell Newman hand-picked Michael Caltabiano,” she stated about public service positions.
Newman came under fire for appointing former Liberal player Mike Caltabiano as director-general of the Transport Department. Caltabiano was fired after less than a year in the job following a Crime and Misconduct investigation into a departmental appointment of the son of a minister.
The former Brisbane mayor also appointed Brisbane City Council identities Barry Broe (co-ordinator-general), Helen Gluer (Treasury) and Andrew Chesterman (Environment and Heritage). Chesterman later became public service commissioner.
Asked whether any more bureaucrats would be fired under a returned LNP, Newman responded “I don’t believe so”, citing a stronger fiscal position.
Newman said his “political career is over” after the loss on Saturday, beginning a contest to lead the party — and potentially become premier. Treasurer Tim Nicholls is seen as the most likely candidate.
If Labor fails to gain a majority of 45 seats, it will need to negotiate with the two Katter’s Australia Party MPs and independent Peter Wellington about forming government. The KAP are seen by many as being more amenable to supporting a Labor government, due to the ALP’s position against the privatisation of public assets.
A survey of Queensland public servants by the Public Service Commission released late 2013 showed improved feedback on job engagement, job empowerment, role clarity and goal alignment.
Correction: The original version of this article stated that Premier Newman “made Nationals figure David Edwards head of the Department of Employment”. He is not a member of the LNP and was never a member of the National Party.