Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated that there would be no major changes the Australian Public Service in the new budget.
Asked at a press conference this afternoon if further cuts to the public service were incoming, Abbott demurred:
“I don’t think anyone should expect major changes, because there have been some significant downsizings already.
“You might remember that the former government went into the election accusing us of planning to take the axe to the public service and when we got into office we discovered that Labor had an unannounced 14,5000 redundancies, most of them have gone ahead, there’s been a few other areas, and we will continue to run an efficient and effective public service with no more or less people than we need to do a good job.”
The Prime Minister went on to say that this budget would “certainly be much less exciting than last year’s budget.”
The most recent workforce figures published by the Australian Public Service Commission shows the APS workforce was reduced by 14,414 from when the Abbott government took office through to the end of 2014.
Employment Minister Eric Abetz, who assists the Prime Minister for the Public Service, noted the reduced footprint was on track to reach the target cuts announced before the election:
“The government has previously committed to a reduction of 16,500 ASL (average staffing level) from 2013-14 levels by 2016-17. Around 14,500 of these reductions are the result of Labor’s secret, unfunded, cuts that were not announced prior to the 2013 election. Another 2,000 are the result of decisions taken by the government in the 2014-15 budget.
“The government will now meet this target ahead of schedule. Accordingly it is in the process of reviewing its interim recruitment arrangements promulgated in October 2013.”
The interim recruitment arrangements, more commonly known as the hiring freeze, prevents vacant positions from being advertised to external applicants, except in very specific diversity-hire cases or without permission from the Public Service Commissioner. Graduates and trainee entry schemes are another way the agencies have been filling skills gaps, and getting around the hiring freeze.