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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 4061

Centre for Policy Development


Senator KROGER (VictoriaChief Government Whip) (14:31): My question is to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Senator Abetz. Can the minister advise the Senate of the government's response to recent criticism of the National Commission of Audit and the budget by the Centre for Policy Development in a paper dealing with public service efficiency?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:32): I have seen the report released by the Centre for Policy Development to which Senator Kroger refers. I reject its assertions. It employs all the usual criticisms. For example, it says things like 'the approach to achieving efficiency in the Public Service is too narrow', 'the efficiency dividend is too blunt a savings mechanism' and 'there should be more innovation and accountability measures'—all very wonderful for an academic treatise. On innovation and accountability, the Centre for Policy Development advocates 'temporarily implementing more permissive standards to create a window for experimentation with new techniques by front-line workers', 'front-line staff should be given the opportunity to question the accountability structures' and 'the discretion and monitoring functions should be subject to peer review'.

All this stuff is pretty worthy of a high distinction in modern left-wing ideology and theory but, might I say, not very practical. Indeed, you would be forgiven for believing that the CPSU or the CFMEU may have written the report. It is a very different thing when you are confronted with accumulated projected gross debt of $667 billion, interest payments of $1 billion per month and 14,500 secretly initiated public sector job cuts—all courtesy of the previous Labor-Greens government. In contrast to the meataxe approach advocated by former Labor Prime Minister Rudd, this government is taking a considered and methodical approach to achieving an efficient and sustainable Public Service.


Senator KROGER (VictoriaChief Government Whip) (14:34): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister able to enlighten the Senate about the Centre for Policy Development's focus and funding sources?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:34): The Centre for Policy Development is another one of these public policy think tanks which claim to be independent and nonpartisan. In truth, like the patriotic-sounding Australia Institute, it is just another left-wing policy factory. The anodyne-sounding Centre for Policy Development is in fact funded by the CPSU, the CFMEU, Slater & Gordon, the Finance Sector Union and—not to leave the Greens out—the Graeme Wood Foundation. Indeed Nadine Flood, the national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, is one of the centre's board members. The particular research in question was funded by the Community and Public Sector Union, the Becher Foundation and Slater & Gordon Lawyers. (Time expired)


Senator KROGER (VictoriaChief Government Whip) (14:36): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question—because I do want to hear more. What is the government's message to public servants concerned about improving innovation and professional accountability in the Public Service?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:36): I thank Senator Kroger for this, her very last question in this place. Finding innovative approaches to improving public sector productivity is an ongoing focus of the Australian Public Service, but innovation has to occur in a context of sustainability. Unsustainable wage rises simply put jobs at risk. For instance, the 12 per cent wage rise currently being sought by the CPSU and ASU put the jobs of at least 10,000 public servants at risk. I suggest that the CPSU and the Centre for Policy Development be truly innovative by acknowledging the need for taxpayers' money to be spent in a sustainable way, something to which Senator Kroger has devoted her time in this chamber.