The public service is not a political plaything

Today I spoke in the Parliament of the Abbott Government's disregard for the Australian Public Service and the impact of this in the ACT.

16 July 2014

The Abbott government's budget broke promises like a bull in a china shop, and no more so than in my proud city in the ACT, which I am fortunate to represent in this place. The Abbott government promised that there would be no more than 12,000 public servant job losses and has now broken that promise, cutting 16,500 Public Service jobs. The ACT budget is worse off to the tune of $375 million.

As a result, a report carried out by Deloitte Access Economics in April of this year found that the ACT was the weakest in the nation on business investment and construction work. That report said:

To be clear, there is undoubtedly a burst of bad news coming down the pipeline.

A report carried out by the Property Council and the ANZ, the Property Industry Confidence Survey, found that confidence in the ACT property sector had slipped and was the lowest across all states and territories. That report did, however, note that confidence in the ACT government has lifted, and I commend the Gallagher government for what they have done in the face of onslaughts from the Abbott government. The fall in ACT house prices was presaged by the Treasurer's comments on Sunrise prior to the election, where he joked with viewers about the fact that an Abbott government would see house prices fall in Canberra. I am all for housing affordability, but getting there via unemployment is a dumb way to do it.

Recently we have heard calls from members of this House to relocate parts of the Australian Public Service to the far north and distant south of Australia in order to develop the economies of regional communities. My colleagues sometimes seem keen to scatter the Public Service anywhere there is a marginal seat with a shortage of other easy employment options. The problem with cutting the Public Service or scattering it to pork-barrel in marginal seats is that, as we deal with complex policy challenges, it is vital that we are able to work across agencies, whether it is dealing with climate change, with the transition from the mining boom or with thinking about how new technologies affect the education sector. We need public servants able to work across departments, to come together in the same room and to discuss how those policy problems affect what they are doing.

Using the Public Service for pork-barrelling shows a deep disrespect for the hard work that public servants do. Canberra was purpose-built to house the Public Service, and I would urge everyone in this place—Labor, Liberal, National or from a minor party—to have a sense of pride in the Public Service and a sense of understanding that a strong Public Service benefits Australians and that Canberra ought to be the natural home for the Public Service. I will fight hard against measures to cut the Public Service and to scatter the Public Service for mere political ends.


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8/1 Torrens Street, Braddon ACT 2612 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au