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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1923

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (11:05): I thank the member for Herbert for raising this in the parliament today because it gives me an opportunity to speak about what's happening in my community of Parramatta. We are the geographical heart of Sydney. We are the centre of the workforce; we're the centre, geographically—the middle, literally—of Sydney itself.

We think of ourselves as a community that has a large public sector. We have the Jessie Street Centre there; the tax office is there; Medicare is there. We have quite a strong public sector presence—at least, we did, because, in the last year, between 2016 and 2017, the number of Public Service jobs in Parramatta halved. The number actually dropped from 3,078 in 2016 to 1,567 in 2017. That is nearly 1,500 jobs gone in a year. They are solid, full-time, safe, secure jobs. Those jobs are the ballast; full-time, secure employment in the community acts like a ballast. They are less responsive to upturns and downturns in the economy. Those workers are still going to get their hair cut. So other business actually survive on the stable employment base that you get from your public sector—and from other full-time jobs, but particularly from the public sector. So it has been an extraordinary blow to Parramatta. But it is really just the tip of the iceberg.

When you look at what has happened in the six years of this government, you can see that the Public Service has essentially been gutted. In the years from 2013 to 2017, there have been 14,000 jobs slashed from the public sector. That is 166,000 down to 152,000—nearly 10 per cent of the public sector. You might remember that, when the member for Warringah first became the Prime Minister, he cut over 8,000 public sector jobs in just his first year. And we are well and truly seeing the results of that. People are waiting, on average, for over 15 minutes to speak to someone at Centrelink—up from the previous year. Young people are waiting over half an hour to speak to someone about youth allowance. People are phoning about disabilities and waiting just under 30 minutes. This is unacceptable. In my electorate, I know of cases where people have waited over three hours to speak to someone at Centrelink. I know people who have rung every day and hung up and, over a two week period, have been unable to get through because they didn't have the time to wait on the phone for that long.

It's not universal, though. The cuts aren't spread evenly. Jobs are actually moving into the CBD. In the Sydney CBD, for example, the number of jobs increased by 2,000 in the last year. Fifteen hundred jobs have gone from Parramatta; 2,000 jobs have gone into the CBD, from an already high base of 13,700 employees. In other areas of Sydney, the number of public sector jobs has roughly stayed constant, although it has significantly declined across the west of Western Sydney as well.

So we are seeing not just a cut across the board but the moving of the public sector from the outer regions or the centre of Sydney city into the CBD, and those of us who live in Western Sydney or further out know how long the travel times are, and we know that those workers actually come from where we are—that workers get on the train and travel sometimes an hour or an hour and a half into the CBD to take up those jobs. It actually doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make any sense in the days of high-speed internet—though not so much in Parramatta; we're not even on the rollout, but, you know, the government departments have high-speed internet. In the era of people working from home and people being able to work remotely, it makes no sense whatsoever to be moving the public sector from outer regions into the CBD. It makes no sense at all, and it makes no sense to cut 1,500 jobs from the geographical centre of Sydney's workforce and move them to a place which is essentially on the edge of it. It makes no sense at all. We've lost 1,500 secure, stable jobs from Parramatta in the last year alone.

It's not okay. It's really not okay. It's not okay to slash our Public Service generally by this amount and it's not okay to slash the amount in my electorate. The member for Herbert is absolutely right; there are communities that depend on the stability that Public Sector jobs give their communities, and mine does too. I call on the government to rethink this move into the main centres. You can see the increase in Melbourne and in Brisbane, but declines virtually everywhere else. It's turning back a tide which was moving in the right direction. In the last years we've seen it completely reversed. It's the wrong way to go, and they should rethink.