ELECTION 2010: PS hiring freeze to impact regional economies

By Angela Dorizas

The Coalition’s plan to cut 12,000 jobs from the Australian Public Service will have a major impact on regional economies, according to research by an independent think-tank.

In a policy paper released on Tuesday, the Australia Institute warned that the Coalition’s two-year hiring freeze would negatively impact on regions with the highest concentration of public servants.

There has been much debate in Canberra as to whether job losses would be concentrated in the nation’s capital, with ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries lobbying his own party leaders on the issue.

The ACTU has warned that the Coalition’s hiring freeze would cut an additional 18,000 jobs from the wider Canberra economy.

That claim has been slammed by Senator Humphries as nothing more than a “beat up”. He said only one third of the public service was based in the ACT.

Australia Institute executive director, Richard Denniss, said this raised the question of where job losses would occur.

“If Gary Humphries is right when he says that public service job cuts will not be restricted to Canberra then the impact on regional economies will be significant,” Dr Denniss said.

Using Australian Bureau of Statistics census data to determine the current distribution of public sector employment, the Australia Institute estimate the number of jobs likely to be lost in each electorate.

“Eden Monaro, for example, would be likely to lose 536 jobs, the Queensland electorate of Herbert would lose 276 jobs, Gippsland would lose 220 jobs and Solomon in Darwin a further 227,” Dr Denniss said.

“While this confusion makes it unclear which regions would be hit hardest by the proposed job cuts, it is quite clear that the impacts will be significant wherever they are located.

“Cuts of 12,000 direct jobs and the associated loss of a further 18,000 indirect jobs will have a devastating impact on regional economies. The only doubt is which ones.”

Coalition defends cuts

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has defended the decision to implement a recruitment freeze.

“We are being upfront with Canberrans about what has to be done to get the budget back to surplus and I say to Canberrans that if you think this government is not going to rip the place apart after the election then you’re kidding yourselves,” Mr Hockey told media in Canberra.

“You can’t have a deficit and you can’t have substantial debt and not have a reduction in activities of the public service.”

Labor has also flagged cuts to the public service, including a reduction in Department of Foreign Affairs positions overseas. It has also taken back the $40 million earmarked for public service reform.

Download the report: The regional impact of public service job cuts [PDF]

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