The State of the Australian Public Service: An Alternative Report | LANDMARK REPORT

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The Centre for Policy Development releases The State of the Australian Public Service: An Alternative Report, as part of our Public Service program.

DOWNLOAD the report The State of the Australian Public Service.

The report’s key findings include:

  • a widening gap between the anti-public servant rhetoric of some politicians and commentators and the positive attitudes held by Australian citizens about public servants and the services they deliver and
  • a decline in the ratio of public servants per capita in contrast to claims of public service ‘bloating’.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has declared the Coalition’s plans to slash public spending and axe at least 12,000 public servants’ jobs if they gain government at the next election in a rush to bring the budget to surplus. In recent days it has been revealed the Coalition plans to cut public spending by $70 billion, shutting down entire government departments.

The Australian Public Service (APS) employs approximately 160,000 people across 133 agencies, making it one of our largest employers and most significant investments. The staffing of the APS generates heated debate in the media as well as in Parliament. Views are polarised.

But what do we really know about the APS? And does much of the rhetoric match up to the reality?

The State of the Australian Public Service analyses 20 years of opinion research on  the public service. The report finds evidence of a disconnect between frequent public service ‘bashing’ by politicians and commentators and generally positive views of the public sector in the general community.

Most Australians are willing to forego income to pay for public services. There’s a strong preference for services to be provided by the public sector: twice as many people support public over private provision of health and education for example.

Our research into long term staffing trends also contradicts the portrayal by some politicians and media commentators of a public sector that is ‘bloated’.

 

“To return the ratio of APS staff to Australian citizens to 1991 levels would require increasing APS staffing to approximately 214,000, an increase of approximately 50,000 staff.”

Unless the community expects less of the public service or the APS is able to deliver its services with significantly fewer employees, the argument that we have a ‘bloated’ public service is baseless.

The report also finds that the APS is an increasingly top-heavy workforce that does not reflect the diversity of the Australian community, with Indigenous Australians and people with a disability under-represented, and women under-represented in the senior ranks.

Dr James Whelan, the report’s author and Director of CPD’s Public Service Program said, “British Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ vision entails cutting the public sector budget by ₤80 billion, freezing wages and calling for tenders for most services. At a time when the public service is under attack in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and the US, Australian politicians who are tempted to follow suit should be aware of Australian voters’ strong support for the public sector.”

CPD’s  The State of the Australian Public Service offers an accessible handbook of all you need to know about attitudes toward the public service and staffing trends.

DOWNLOAD The State of the Australian Public Service: An Alternative Report here.

MEDIA | Public Service ideas in the news

James Whelan | Evidence please, not more bashing of our public sector
Online Opinion

With the Federal Government expected to announce major spending cuts as part of its mid-year economic forecast, debate on the size and role of the public sector has reignited.
CPD’s James Whelan argues that the community does not support drastic cuts to public services. Read his response to Institute for Public Affairs Director Julie Novak’s call for savage Budget cuts, published in Online Opinion last week.

James Whelan | Public Sector Cuts Don’t Add Up
CPSU Works

With the Federal Government expected to announce major spending cuts as part of its mid-year economic forecast, debate on the size and role of the public sector has reignited.

CPD’s James Whelan argues that the community does not support drastic cuts to public services. Read his response to Institute for Public Affairs Director Julie Novak’s call for savage Budget cuts, published in Online Opinion last week.

David McLennan | Public Service ‘Vulnerable’
The Canberra Times
“Far from being “bloated”, public service numbers are actually lagging behind when compared with population growth… public servants were vulnerable to attack because much of their work was taken for granted.”

Verona Burgess | Attack on Job Cut Plan
Australian Financial Review
“[The report] argues that the Coalition’s planned cut of 12,000 jobs in its first year in office is based on a belief in smaller government and the capacity of private and communtiy bodies to deliver services that have traditionally been the responsibility of public service agencies”

Peter Martin | Public Service Same Size as 20 Years Ago
Fairfax
“our analysis contradicts the prevailing rhetoric about a bourgeoning public service”

Peter Jean | Warning on Simplifying Our Public Service
The Canberra Times
“Negative stereotypes of public servants reinforced by politicians and the media are creating political opportunities for Tea Party-style policies, including massive cuts in public spending, according to a report on the state of the Australian Public Service.”

AAP | Study Rejects Federal Public Service Bloat
“..the federal public service was no bigger now, per head of population, than it was two decades ago.”

AAP | Study Finds Cuts to Federal Public Service will put Community Services at Risk
“The opposition’s plan would involve retrenching “7.5 per cent of the staff who deliver services, develop policies, make rules and laws, monitor and enforce laws and regulations, collect taxes and manage government finance”.

702 ABC | Small Public Service ‘An Easy Target’
“Dr Whelan says the views of many politicians are out of step with community attitudes, with 70 per cent of Australians in support of delaying a return to surplus.”

Cheryl McGregor | Paying our Respects to the Bereaucrats
The Newcastle Herald
“As long as information about what the community wants from the public service is intermittent, one-issue or having different criteria, it will be vulnerable to politicians who deliberately summon negative stereotypes to gain an electoral advantage.”

Alex Sloan | Interview with James Whelan
ABC Local Radio Canberra
Listen to Dr James Whelan chat with Alex Sloan about the findings in the report

ABC The Drum | Dr James Whelan discusses the report
Watch online to hear what James has to say about the report

MEDIA INQUIRIES

For all media enquiries or to arrange an interview with our Public Service Research Director and report author, Dr James Whelan, please contact our Communications Director, Antoinette Abboud on 0414 920 801 or antoinette.abboud(at)cpd.org.au

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