Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann somewhat calmed fears of more Australian Public Service cuts and layoffs in a speech to the Sydney Institute this week. But while the staff may not be disappearing, the pressure for greater efficiency in outcomes continues, with Cormann flagging further cuts to government program spending to just 24% of GDP — the average level under the Howard government.
Cormann told the audience the Commonwealth’s push for “better targeted, more efficient and more effective” public service delivery would continue:
“There is no easy way to repair the Budget, as suggested by some, just by slashing the public service.
“The public service wage bill represents less than 5% of federal government expenditure. Most of our federal government expenditure goes into programs — the age pension, the disability pension, the NDIS, unemployment benefits, medical benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, payments to the States and Territories to support their schools and hospitals, our border security, our defence forces and more.
“Of course we will continue to pursue our Smaller Government Agenda — seeking to ensure that public spending on government administration and services is as efficient and as effective as possible.
“Over the past two years the efficiency dividend imposed on government departments and relevant agencies has remained in place. We have reduced the number of federal public servants back down to 2006/07 levels. We have reduced the number of government bodies by nearly 300 and we are continuing to roll out our program of functional and efficiency reviews of government departments.
“But we will not be able to achieve a sustainable budget position without continuing structural reform of government program spending.”