All the latest news and views from the CPSU team

Commonwealth Public Sector – don’t believe the spin

A RECENTLY released CPSU submission thwarts the notion that the Commonwealth Public Sector is inefficient or bloated.

The 20 page CPSU submission to the National Commission of Audit uses evidence from a variety of sources to show that the opposite is in fact the case. Read on for report highlights.

You can find the full submission in the document below.


Firstly, the submission questions the commission’s composition, which is heavily weighted towards large corporations. It also states that the short time period for the audit is unrealistic and likely to produce some questionable outcomes.

Contrary to the often purported myth, Australia does not have an excessively large Commonwealth government, which is only 0.2% higher than its size in 1996-97.

When it comes to efficiency, the World Bank ranked our country in the 94th percentile for government effectives and in the 97th for regulatory quality. Relatively we’re not spending a lot on the Commonwealth Public Sector Workforce, which constitutes 7% of total Federal Government expenditure.

Despite this efficiency, the Government has said it’ll cut the public sector by at least 12,000 jobs. This, at a time when our population is on the up, means it’ll be hard to deliver the level of services our community expects.

The report cites a number of other reviews into public sector efficiency that have already happened that could be used to help guide the government. For example, using training and development for in-house Legal Services to save money, not using contract staff for ICT, and the trialling of new forms of service delivery in DHS.

These reviews find that outsourcing and the use of contracts are not the best methods of increasing efficiency; and alternatively agencies should look at ways to bolster services and their delivery in-house.

The submission warns of following in the British government’s Big Society approach, where public sector jobs were cut in their thousands and services outsourced.

Speaking against privatisation of public services, the report states: “making the work of government someone else’s problem does not make the challenges and opportunities we face as a society disappear. Governments are elected to fulfil obligations to the community, and accordingly they should accept that responsibility”.

Also, privatising services doesn’t represent value for money. It rids the government of accountability and control.

Highlighting the example of moving some Centrelink services to Australia Post, the CPSU submission argues that this will only contribute to customer aggression, double handling and the complexity and replication of ICT infrastructure.

When addressing cuts to Commonwealth Public Sector jobs, the submission highlights the disproportionate impact on regional areas, such as Tasmania.

APS employment in Tasmania saw a reduction over 500 positions since 2008 (about 12%), and many of these job losses were at higher classification levels.

In Tasmania’s there’s a higher level of insecure employment Australian Public Service, with 14% of these jobs either non-ongoing or casual, compared to the national average of 7%.


Looking at recent job losses in our state the report shows:

• Since mid-2009 Burnie and Devonport Human Services offices lost 26 staff, 11 of which were positions directly serving the community, while 15 were in specialist areas;

• ATO cuts saw 92 jobs cut from Tasmania;

• In Customs Tasmania lost 14 out of 31 positions;

• In DHS there were 35 job cuts in Tasmania


A Tasmanian Delegate quoted in the submission said: “The public service is the third biggest employer in Tasmania. We are the backbone of the economy and maintain small businesses. Cuts to our jobs lead to [a] ripple effect on those who need our support, including rework, longer waiting times and inability to really serve customers. Mistakes can be costly with an increase in Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration claims. We do not have the opportunity in Tasmania to go look for other jobs, we or our children will have to move to the mainland to seek career opportunities.”

The Submission asks the Commission to acknowledge the value of public services and recognise the good value they provide, as well as the good work public sector workers do and the dangers of privatisation.



No Comments