A modest proposal for Public sector job and wage cuts

With the deficit skyrocketing, most Australians are doing it tough. Most. However, there are a few protected areas that have surprisingly escaped much scrutiny.

The most obvious are public sector workers. Now, straight off, I’m going to draw a clear distinction between the actual, front line, ‘deal with the public’ workers, the nurses, the doctors, the orderlies, the police, the ambulance people, the teachers, the bus drivers etc, and the armies of backoffice bureaucrats that we have working in the state/federal bureaucracy- many of whom wouldn’t meet the general public in a fit in an average workday.

I have to say that because one of the chief distracting tactics of the public sector cheersquad is to conflate all cuts to public servants as cuts to front line, genuine workers, when of course that’s not what we’re talking about at all. Fairfax commenters (many of them public servants I wonder?) constantly make this false conflation. For the record; we’re talking about the back office clipboard loafers – of whom there are many.

Despite what many public sector defenders say, the ‘back office’ people are clearly distinguishable from the frontline workers, and always have been. So, yes, you can sack back office people without affecting the frontlines (and always could). And in fact one of the biggest impediments to people on the frontline are the backoffice people making up rules and regulations and sending out forms and surveys for the sake of it.

A good example is the Victorian Institute of Teaching. I can remember the old school inspectors, who would come to the school, and actually stand in class and observe. Tough for the teachers, but you had to respect the fact the inspectors made the trip. Now, we get a bunch of smug ‘tick the box’ bureaucrats, making ‘directives’ and collecting fees (and fining those who are late) who wouldn’t visit (or even know where a school was) in a pink fit. And every so often, at great public expense, they launch a ‘show prosecution’ (with a little group of overpaid barristers) to ban a teacher – in many cases running uncontested hearings (with barristers on 5k a day!) where the teacher has already handed in their license and said they have stopped working anyway(!). Time to simply shut the whole thing down.

Should also be noted that there are extreme levels of nepotism and favoritism in the public sector. Most jobs are given to mates or family members. Therefore its a bit odd to expect private sector workers to support payrises for jobs that are effectively denied to them, for life.

Victoria’s public sector wages bill is a staggering 26bn a year. It defies belief that there isn’t fat to cut from that, even after ringfencing frontline workers (which we should do). Here is a modest proposal to cut that fat, with the most obvious candidates at the start:

  • Complete and immediate sacking of all ‘ministerial advisers’ with no payout of benefits etc. These sackings would have the added benefit of immediately lifting government productivity. Bye bye, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet!
  • Immediate sacking of all media advisers, people who write press releases, ‘communication officers’, ‘Electorate officers’, PR officers, and all those bloody idiots who devise those pathetic government advertising campaigns (have you ‘swapped a stop’ to walk more to lose weight recently?).
  • Most of the corporate lawyers can go. And so can the ones that devise ‘corporate compliance’ (ie dreaming up more rules to confuse everyone with).
  • Anyone who works on indigenous issues who is not, on a daily basis, providing direct person to person care; is sacked. Bye bye Canberra bureaucrat who I saw enjoying her triple latte at Parliament House while flicking through her ‘Closing the gap’ glossy brochure with a pen marker!
  • All HR etc etc can be reduced to a simple ‘Personnel Officer’ (one person per department) who simply gathers and filters resumes for all PS positions. And, because nepotism and jobs for mates are a critical issue in the public sector, a simple global govt website which says ‘Job xrt221 at Dept of Lands was filled on 15th May 2020 by John Stubbins, who was previously a bureaucrat at Treasury’. Then we all know who’s getting the jobs, and why. Sunlight is the best disinfectant!.. And because we’ll change the law to allow people to be sacked as easily in the public sector as in the private, no more tribunals, ‘grievance committees’ etc etc and no. no. no. more jobs for life.
  • A complete, across the board upper wage cap across all govt and govt owned enterprises of 200k. Christine Holgate- leader of Australia Post on 3m a year? Sorry Christine, its 200k, take it or leave it. ABC star ‘luvvie’ who’s on a 500k package, you’re now on 200k; if you dont like it, leave. (You might have to sell your house in Glebe or North Melbourne. Oh well). This is everywhere- all heads of departments from the PM down.
  • 70% cut to ABC budget. Yep, I know you got your job when you were a Whitlam staffer, and I know you must have the right opinions because everyone else in the office agrees with you. But we haven’t time for you anymore. Out. ABC was set up as a basic news service so it needs a TV channel and a news website. And that’s it.
  • 80,000 of the most unneeded backoffice public servants to be sacked in Victoria. At an average total cost of 100k a year, that’s a saving of 8 billion a year- straight into the public health system! Imagine that replicated across the whole country- fantastic!
  • 40% across the board paycut for any backoffice public servants still left including all MPs.
  • The Victorian Institute of Teaching, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, The Victorian Privacy Commissioner, The Victorian Law Foundation, The Legal Services board, AHPRA, all completely closed; all staff sacked; and the resulting 500m a year pumped straight into public health. Similar bodies in other states abolished (send me your suggestions!).
  • The Australia Council completely abolished- no more luxury trips to Venice for you! (and no more artists being funded to do burnouts in rolls royces in the outbacks to tell a message about oppression!)
  • All former backoffice staff on defined pensions to have those pensions reduced to a maximum of $450 a week (still very generous). Sticks in my craw to have smiling former bureaucrats boasting of their 1.5k a week incomes (plus! for life!) for being retired from a job where they never did anything anyway.
  • This is all just a start, what are your ideas? After this post, the other side of the ledger- a plan to finally make the miners pay their proper share of tax!