Coalition wrong on public service savaging

My letter to the Australian Financial Review published today is in response to Treasurer Joe Hockey's claim that Labor hid public service staff cuts.
Australian Financial Review

Letter to the Editor

21 November 2103

If you were to list the qualities of Treasurer Joe Hockey, it’s unlikely that ‘attention to detail’ would feature high on the list. So the Treasurer’s claim of a ‘secret Labor plan’ to cut public service jobs ("The real scope of Labor's deceit coming to light', AFR, 20 November) should raise an eyebrow or two.

Before the election, Mr Hockey was claiming that Labor had left Australia with a bloated public service. Misleadingly, he alleged that the public service had grown by 20,000, when in fact the real figure was closer to 8,000. In terms of public servants per head of population, our public service is about the same size today as it was in 2007.

Yet now that he is in office, Mr Hockey has changed his tune, implausibly claiming that Labor’s 2.25 per cent efficiency dividend (saving $1.8 billion) would have cost more jobs than his own policy to directly get rid of 12,000 jobs (projected to save $5.2 billion).

Labor has consistently said before the election that the Coalition’s pledge to cut 12,000 jobs was savage and short sighted, particularly when coupled with the Coalition’s promise to raise the efficiency dividend to 2.5 per cent.

Labor’s efficiency dividend approach targets non-staff savings first, focusing instead on areas such as travel and procurement. The Coalition approach takes the power away from the hands of senior public service managers, and instead demands forced redundancies.

Australia needs a little less hyperventilating hyperbole from its Treasurer. It’s time he stopped blaming others and started taking responsibility for his actions. He could start by saying that he was wrong about public service numbers, and formally dumping his pledge to cut 12,000 jobs.

(The AFR published an abridged version)

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