By Julian Bajkowski
Commonwealth employees have been warned that one public service job an hour will be axed under the Coalition’s plans to reduce the size of the federal bureaucracy by 12,000 full time positions as unions and the Opposition tap into growing fears in agencies that forced redundancies will be needed to make up the required numbers.
Canberra Senator Kate Lundy claims that details in the Post-election Report from the Parliamentary Budget Office confirmed plans to shake-up the public service, with Australian Public Service slated to be reduced by 6,000 staff in the nine months to June 2014.
“That’s one public service job lost every single hour until the end of the financial year. A further 6,000 jobs will go in the two years after that,” Senator Lundy said.
So far the agencies quarantined from the cuts are the Australian Customs, Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and Australian Secret Intelligence Service as well as serving military personnel and reservists within in Defence.
The exemption of security and intelligence agencies over health, welfare and education is known to have raised some eyebrows because many security functions were previously generously funded to address threats that have either changed or abated.
Now the Opposition has Defence in its sights. Canberra Labor MP Gai Brodtmann said the detail from the PBO “confirms that thousands of public servants in the Defence Department in Canberra face uncertainty.”
“We now know where the cuts won’t come from, but we don’t know yet where they will come from, how they will be delivered and what impact they will have on frontline services” Ms Brodtmannsaid.
Canberra’s other lower house representative, noted economist Dr Andrew Leigh, said that it was “hard to believe the speed and severity of the cuts won’t erode public services.”
“We have already heard how Centrelink call centres, hit by staff cuts, are struggling to meet customer needs. This disproportionately affects low-income Australians needing tailored support. The PBO notes that its findings are of ‘low or medium reliability’ because of the data available to it,” Dr Leigh said.
“The savings are difficult to forecast because it relies on who leaves the APS and when,” said Dr Leigh.
The latest details of the planned and much publicised job cuts comes at a sensitive time for the Abbott government as frontline staff key welfare agency Centrelink goes into overdrive to assist people hit by the New South Wales Bushfire.
The particularly early onset of the bushfire season has underscored the need for heightened contingency planning and a possible increase in federal emergency and disaster responses, where the Department of Human Services plays a pivotal role through relief payments and the provision of call centre and assistance services including emergency payments.
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