Auditor-general slams job cuts

Issue 

By Bill Mason

The federal government's haste to cut public servant numbers has cost $711 million in redundancy payments for about 20,000 staff over three years, according to a report by the auditor-general, Pat Barrett. The report criticised the lack of planning in the redundancies, which left government departments and agencies with low morale.

"It was common to determine the number of retrenchments required on the basis of budget constraints in a given year", Barrett said. Official figures state that in the three years to June 1998, the federal public service was cut by 16% from 144,000 to 121,000.

Recently, Barrett attacked the cuts and contracting out of services because they eroded the ability of public servants to monitor government programs.

The report said the average age of public servants was now more than 40 because recruitment had been reduced to its lowest level in 10 years. This, coupled with the loss of experienced staff and the larger proportion with less than two years' experience, had "the potential to affect the agencies' ability to conduct their business in the longer term."

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) assistant national secretary Doug Lilly said on June 29 that the lack of planning had resulted in "unnecessary cuts driven by ideology. In regional Australia, the public service and banks provide the backbone of jobs for young people", Lilly said.

CPSU delegate at the Centrelink Brisbane call centre Nick Everett responded by calling on the union to relaunch its national campaign against public sector job cuts. "In Centrelink, the CPSU has abandoned the fight against the slashing of 5000 jobs over three years and nationally, the commitment to a public sector-wide campaign to save jobs was dumped some time ago", he said.