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Federal Labor will undermine the Public Service.

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Media Release


Federal Labor Will Undermine The Public Service

Labor's spokesman for the Public Service Craig Emerson today insulted the professionalism of Commonwealth public servants by insinuating they have abandoned their impartiality and given biased advice to pocket performance bonuses and political favour.

Mr Emerson even went so far as to assert the Howard Government’s choice of Departmental Secretaries was influenced by the supposed vendettas of other public servants.

Australia’s Commonwealth public servants deserve better than such ill-informed slurs.

The APS is among the best in the world with a comprehensive system of checks and balances to ensure merit-based appointments, impartial advice and public accountability, including:

● Freedom of Information laws;

● Parliamentary scrutiny;

● Administrative and judicial review;

● Commonwealth Ombudsman;

● An active APS Commission; and

● APS Code of Conduct under the bipartisan Public Service Act 1999.

Earlier this year the United Nations recognised the APS's outstanding achievement in serving the public interest and its significant contribution to improving public administration in Australia.

In contrast, the state public services under Labor governments desperately need similar accountability measures. The Queensland and New South Wales public services in particular require immediate reform if Labor is serious about improving public service independence.

The NSW system has no equivalent to the Australian Public Service Commissioner or the Merit Protection Commissioner to advise on executive appointments.

In Queensland, appointments to senior public service positions go straight to the Governor-in-Council, allowing direct political intervention. Appointments can be made on political patronage, as Mr Emerson would well know.

Federal Labor has promised to politicise the APS by using government procurement policies to support the union movement. The party’s workplace relations platform states the APS will only be allowed to do business with union-friendly firms.

Until Labor sorts out the independence of the state public services it will never be serious about promoting professionalism and impartiality in the APS.

Federal Labor’s plans for workplace relations in the public service will also reduce career prospects and discourage long-term retention.

Labor intends to abolish AWAs and remove the capacity for Agency Heads to reward high performing public servants, threatening the careers of thousands of federal public servants on AWAs.

Labor has also promised to return to a “single, integrated” workplace relations framework, based on a single “whole-of-service” agreement. This will destroy the current flexibility that individual agencies have to set their own terms and conditions with their employees.

Women will be the real losers. They will be lost to the higher levels of the APS as they lose the flexibility they currently have to balance work and family commitments.

When questioned about the implications of this policy for attraction and retention, Mr Emerson conceded public servants would have to accept lower pay and conditions because of this single, inflexible system.

Federal Labor has also indicated it will slash thousands of jobs from the APS to implement its policies. Its defence spokesman Kim Beazley recently admitted that thousands of jobs are under threat in the Department of Defence alone.

Labor’s record at a state level shows it cannot be trusted on issues of public service impartiality.

Its agenda for the APS is nothing more than a union-imposed roll-back of the reforms of the past 20 years which will destroy jobs and lead to lower wages and fewer choices for Commonwealth public servants.

For further information contact:

Felicity Dargan 0409 550 446