Nationals frontbencher describes cuts as ‘sensible management’ but unions say they will result in thousands of job losses
Nationals frontbencher David Littleproud has claimed that spending cuts imposed across the public sector to deliver $3.3bn in savings to pay for the Morrison government’s election commitments will not result in job losses.
Littleproud at first told the ABC erroneously on Wednesday morning that “governments don’t employ people, businesses do”.
The ABC Breakfast host Michael Rowland then pointed out to the minister that governments do employ many thousands of people “called public servants”.
Rowland then asked Littleproud whether or not the new efficiency dividend the Morrison government outlined on Tuesday would result in thousands of job losses for public servants.
Littleproud replied: “No, because this is an efficiency dividend that even a business looks at”.
“The public service shouldn’t be exempt from running the ruler over about how they’re spending money … that’s what businesses do,” he said. “That’s what the Australian public service should do”.
Littleproud characterised arguments to the contrary as “scaremongering”.
The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and the finance minister, Simon Birmingham, released the Coalition’s election costings in Melbourne on Tuesday, and said an increase to the public sector efficiency dividend and changes to super contributions would offset the $2.3bn in new spending promises made by the Coalition since the beginning of the campaign.
Unions say the new cut will result in thousands of public servants losing their jobs.
Littleproud contended ongoing cuts were necessary: “The public service has got to make sure there’s no fat in the system, there isn’t anything that is being wasted, and that’s only sensible management that a normal business would do and I think the Australian taxpayer would expect us to do that in a sensible way.”
But the proposed cuts will not help the Liberal party in Canberra.
For the past 50 years, the two ACT Senate spots have been held by the Labor and Liberal parties, but in 2022, two high-profile progressive independents, David Pocock, a former rugby union star player, and constitutional law professor Kim Rubenstein are vying to replace the Liberal incumbent, Zed Seselja.
A recent Redbridge robo-phone survey of voting intentions which was funded by the Pocock campaign had Labor polling at 27%, followed by the Liberals at 24% and Pocock at 21%.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions national secretary, Sally McManus, told the ABC on Wednesday Littleproud’s diagnosis of the fallout associated with the increased efficiency dividend was wrong.
“Well, let’s be clear about this – it’s $3.3bn over four years that they’re ripping out of the public service,” McManus said. “Of course that means job losses.”
“We estimate it’s over 5,000 job losses, and actually, that is just cuts to frontline services for Australians,” she said.
“If you take out those workers … right across the public sector – that has a direct effect on every single Australian who depends especially on flood and fires, who depends on the public sector to be there and support them.”