Morrison Government spent billions outsourcing public sector jobs at 40% premium, audit finds

Last week the Federal Government announced the outcome of the Australian public service audit of employment, a look into the state of the Australian Public Service (APS) in the final year of the Morrison Liberal Government.  

While Community & Public Sector Union members in our APS have been blowing the whistle on the wave of public sector job cuts and money splashed out to external consultancy firms, the full extent of it is truly astonishing.  

The findings of the audit revealed an equivalent 54,000 full time staff were employed through external consultancies, labour hire and other outsourcing in 2021-22. This shocking figure amounts for 37% of the total APS workforce. More than a third.  

The audit looked into the hiring practices (and resulting costs) of 112 APS agencies. It revealed that nearly 70% of the $20.8 billion dollars spent by the Morrison Government on external labour went to outsourcing of existing services. In other words, work that was available to be performed by public sector workers, and in many cases previously had been.  

As the audit excluded the CSIRO, ABC and parliamentary departments, the total cost is likely to be worse still.  

It reveals the true extent of the previous Government’s ideological attack on public sector jobs and secure employment, which has contributed to stagnant wage growth and an explosion of insecure and precarious jobs across the APS.  

Australians have every right to ask the self-crowned party of “good economic management,” what budget savings motivated the widescale decimation of good public sector careers?

The Albanese Government forecasts that the audit will save $10 billion dollars from the annual budget.  

Katy Gallagher, Minister for the Public Service, said the outcomes of the audit reveal a government’s attempt to create a “shadow workforce,” while imposing an “arbitrary cap on the number of government employees”. 

“The Morrison government maintained its artificial cap on public servant numbers, promoting a mirage of efficiency, but were at the same time spending almost $21 billion of public money on a shadow workforce that was deliberately kept secret,” Gallagher said. 

In 2015, the then-Abbott Government announced it would freeze public sector staffing levels at 2006-2007 levels. The Albanese Government’s audit follows a CPSU submission to the 2021 Senate Inquiry into the capability of the public service, which illustrated how agencies were resorting to labour hire and external contracting to circumvent the staffing cap.  

The Albanese Government’s election promise to abolish staffing caps and audit employment was a major win for CPSU members, after almost a decade of campaigning against cuts and chronic under resourcing of public services.  

The Albanese Government has placed an agenda for public sector reform among its top priorities for its first term in Government. Central to it is investing back into secure, permanent jobs in the APS, as well as putting in place new flexibility principles covering all public sector workers.  

>> To learn more about APS reform, read our recent article, “APS Flexibility Principles Signal Rise of “Model Employer” in Canberra? 

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