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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
Australian Public Service Commission

Australian Public Service Commission

CHAIR: We will recommence proceedings for the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee estimates hearings. I welcome Mr Stephen Sedgwick, Public Service Commissioner, and officers of the Australian Public Service Commission. My apologies for the delay in your appearance here, but this is what happens on the committee sometimes. We appreciate your forbearance. Mr Sedgwick, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Mr Sedgwick : No, thank you.

Senator LUNDY: I have a couple of general questions with respect to the impact on staff. What major agencies will be impacted by the reductions across the 2014-15 financial year?

Mr Sedgwick : These are not our numbers; these are finance department numbers in the budget documents. They are based on ASL, average staffing level, so it is an average over the year, basically, of the full-time equivalent. Interpreting the numbers is complicated by machinery of government changes, and the reason for that is that, if there is a change halfway through the year, on the average you only get a half-year effect. So you will get changes between the years that simply reflect the fact that there was a change in September, and nothing else can happen for the rest of the year but you will still see a change in the next year. Half the rise will appear in the second year; half a fall will appear in the second year. So that complicates the story.

Senator LUNDY: I am looking for the major agencies that are impacted, so the areas where the cuts will be greatest.

Mr Sedgwick : The machinery of government changes were announced on 18 September and they will affect some but not all of these agencies. The main decreases that are forecast in the budget are the tax office—

Senator LUNDY: By how many?

Mr Sedgwick : by 2,329; the Department of Industry, 732; the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 535; the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 400; the civilian part of Defence, 385; the Department of Health, 326; and the Department of Agriculture, 232. There is also a decrease forecast in ASL terms for the Electoral Commission, but that is due to the fact that the election was held, they ramped up their staffing and it has come back down.

Senator LUNDY: What about the AFP?

Mr Sedgwick : Sorry, I do not have that number. That is not an APS agency.

Senator LUNDY: Have the APSC started any consultations with those agencies with regard to transition arrangements for employees?

Mr Sedgwick : We have had arrangements in place for some time now, whereby employees who are identified as being potentially excess are given the opportunity to register on a redeployment register. There are roughly 400, I think, on that register at the moment. With the way that the interim recruitment rules work, in order for an agency to justify to us that a vacancy can be advertised they have to demonstrate to us that they have consulted that redeployment register and that anyone who looks prospective has been checked out to see whether they can accept a transfer. Agencies have been doing that.

Senator LUNDY: So you can confidently say that you are engaged with all the agencies that you mentioned just then as far as exploring those opportunities for their employees is concerned?

Mr Sedgwick : We have been running that register for a couple of years, actually, but the rules around the requirement to consult it were significantly tightened last October-November. We know that that register is being consulted and that people are being placed from that register into work.

Senator LUNDY: I have some quite detailed questions about the register, which I will come back to. Have you been able to assess what the impact will be on frontline services with the changes in employment numbers?

Mr Sedgwick : No, that is not something we have visibility of.

Senator LUNDY: With the reductions you have cited, have you been able to assess how many of those will be involuntary redundancies?

Mr Sedgwick : We do not have that sight of that, either, at this stage. We do know that the tax office, for example, has been running voluntary retrenchment programs for some time, and I suspect they will continue to do so.

Senator LUNDY: I will come back for more detail, but I have some general questions first. Was the APSC consulted on the government's smaller-government agenda?

Mr Sedgwick : Which component of that agenda?

Senator LUNDY: The broad component—that is, fewer numbers of public servants overall. Were you consulted in general terms or in specific terms about an overall reduction in the number of public servants?

Senator Abetz: It would be fair to say that with a change of government the Australian Public Service Commission was confronted, as was the Department of Finance, with the hidden 14,500 cut that was in your last budget. We went to the election with a policy, which we did not consult the APSC on, of 12,000 by natural attrition. I found it somewhat bemusing that we were attacked for that policy when at all times there were the 14,500 that were hidden. Anyway, we have since said that our policy of 12,000 by natural attrition is parked to the side as we are still working through the 14,500. Now, with the budget having come down, we say that our policy in that regard has been superseded, so the number you have been ventilating, and will continue to ventilate this evening, is basically an aggregate of the 14,500, courtesy of your government, plus about an extra 2,000 from the budget. So, just keep those proportions in mind, Senator.

Mr Sedgwick : Why I was pausing in framing a response to you was that the numbers that have been reported in the budget, and the ones I just read back to you, reflect decisions that have been taken either in the context of previous budgets or in this budget. The role of the commission in that world is the same as any other agency. It is a process that works its way through ERC and then ultimately Budget Cabinet.

Senator LUNDY: Thank you, and thank you, Minister, for your well-rehearsed response. We all know that they were your government's assessments of the impact of Labor's decisions, not the facts.

Senator Abetz: No, they were the assessment of the Secretary of Finance, Mr Tune—

Senator LUNDY: Working to your brief, Minister.

Senator Abetz: Try that line on the Secretary of Finance. See if you have the guts to do that. I am sure you will not.

Senator LUNDY: I understand that there are two registers. Let me just go to the APSC's role in supporting the workers whose jobs are likely to be cut. You mentioned the registers, but can you describe quite specifically what the experience would be for a public servant who consulted with the APSC, or was advised that their job was no longer in existence? What do you, the Australian Public Service Commission, do in supporting that employee?

Mr Sedgwick : In circumstances where an agency has identified to us that an individual is potentially excess they receive an email from the relevant part of the commission that invites that individual to provide their CV in a relatively standard form so that it can be loaded up onto the register and then be consulted by agencies that are looking to fill jobs. We discovered that there was some initial reluctance amongst some employees to go through the process and provide the details that could be loaded up onto that register. So there have been some quite active processes of engagement to encourage people to understand that registering their interest on that register gives them a chance, not a certainty, of finding a job. Sometimes that has taken the form of communication by email. Sometimes, if that has not worked, there has been a phone call. We now have a very small number—20 sticks in my mind—of people who currently have been identified to us as being excess, who have not gone through that process and put their CV on the list.

Ms Foster : The 20 relates to the number of people whose details are not complete and accurate on the register. We have been going through a process of contacting all the people on the register and encouraging them to keep their details fully up-to-date so that they have the best chance of being placed when there are opportunities for redeployment.

Senator LUNDY: How many people are currently on each of the registers?

Mr Sedgwick : My memory is that roughly 400 people are on the main register. You said 'registers'. Are you thinking of the SES one, as well?

Senator LUNDY: Yes.

Mr Sedgwick : There are relatively few on that register. I do not have the number in my head.

Senator LUNDY: Since September of last year how many people have sought a job exchange or redeployment through the register?

Mr Sedgwick : I struggle to know how to answer that question. If you have your name on the register you are looking for a job. So, by definition, everybody who is on the register is looking for another job.

Senator LUNDY: I just want to clarify this: is there a redeployment register and a job exchange register, or is it just the one register?

Mr Sedgwick : We are running one register.

Senator LUNDY: Does it have two roles then—both redeployment and a job exchange?

Mr Sedgwick : No, it is a redeployment register.

Senator LUNDY: So you do not have anything called a job exchange?

Mr Sedgwick : Not that I am aware of. There may be some agencies that do that internally, but I am not aware that we are running one across the public service. It would be rather difficult to do, actually.

Senator LUNDY: So about 400 people are on the register at the moment?

Mr Sedgwick : Yes.

Senator LUNDY: How many people have come off the redeployment register as a result of being terminated?

Mr Sedgwick : I do not have that number with me.

Senator LUNDY: Does anyone have that number?

Mr Livermore : We would have to take that on notice.

Senator LUNDY: Have there been a few or a lot? Can you give me an idea? Has anyone come off it?

Ms Foster : Since November last year we have had 168 people redeployed within the APS. They have come off the register and gone into jobs.

Senator LUNDY: But you cannot tell me the number of people who have gone off the register because they are no longer employed by the Public Service?

Ms Foster : We do not maintain a number like that. We could potentially get it. But people will come off the register for a number of reasons. They can be redeployed as a result of being on the register. They can find another job themselves. They can leave the Public Service voluntarily. So it would be very difficult to find the reason why people no longer wish to be on the register, and it is voluntary for them to be on the register.

Mr Sedgwick : There are times when, in consulting the register to see if there is somebody who can be put in a job, an agency will identify somebody who is prospective and when they ring them up they discover they already have a job. The point being that we are really reliant on the individual to keep that up to date. So it may not be easy to get the data you are looking for.

Senator LUNDY: If you could take that on notice.

Mr Sedgwick : Yes.

Senator LUNDY: What has been done by the APSC to prevent involuntary redundancies more generally? And how do you get involved in that?

Mr Sedgwick : The government has had a policy, which it introduced at the end of October last year, that has required agencies firstly to consult the redeployment register and secondly to demonstrate to us in the commission that the job they wish to advertise is critical, against the background that if, having consulted the register—and we check, by the way—there is nobody who is available to fill the job and the job is critical. Then the default position will be that the job will be advertised as being open to existing employees in the Australian Public Service. We actually changed the commissioner's directions a few months ago to do this. If the nature of the skill set that is required is sufficiently specialised or it is a regional location and the Public Service labour market is relatively thin in those areas, then we might agree that the job can be advertised externally, which means it is open both to ordinary Australians, whether they are members of the Public Service or not, and to public servants. And the point about this is that the default is always in favour of trying to place an existing employee, either directly off the register or by requiring that the job be advertised as only open to members of the Australian Public Service.

Senator LUNDY: Given that the numbers of public servants are going to be reduced, which agencies do you see as carrying a risk of creating involuntary redundancies as opposed to voluntary?

Mr Sedgwick : I could not speculate on that. That really is a matter that needs to be addressed by each agency.

Senator LUNDY: But you would have a bit of an idea of which ones would be able to achieve or settle their cut, if you like, through voluntary or involuntary?

Mr Sedgwick : It depends on what their turnover is, it depends on the time frame within which adjustments need to be made, it turns on the capacity of individuals to find a job, and it depends on the rate of natural attrition.

Senator LUNDY: Do you monitor agencies and departments and keep your own list of activity in this area?

Mr Sedgwick : We monitor the data monthly, so we know what is happening to numbers—head count—in agencies on a monthly basis.

Senator LUNDY: So you keep an up-to-date file, you fill out a table on a monthly basis?

Mr Sedgwick : Yes, we provide reports.

Senator LUNDY: Can you provide the committee with your most recent report?

Mr Sedgwick : We will have to take that one up with the government. It is advice to the minister.

Senator Abetz: I will take it on notice and see what our attitude is.

Mr Sedgwick : The most recent data, published a few weeks back, is for December. So, there is published data.

Senator LUNDY: But you just said it is done monthly, so I guess there is one for April.

Mr Sedgwick : It is done monthly, and it is advice that we provide to the minister. I can tell you that the trend that you will see, the picture you will see by looking at the published data over the six months to December, is broadly the picture that has continued into the early part of the new year. So, you can get the idea from just looking at what we published.

Senator LUNDY: Perhaps you could take on notice to provide the most recent month's data. Has there been any monitoring of the use of employee assistance programs, particularly in relation to concerns over job security?—which I am sure you could appreciate would be at the forefront of most people's minds.

Mr Sedgwick : We will check, and we will correct the record if my memory is wrong here. Every year we do a survey of agencies. It helps to inform the State of the Service report, which we tabled in the parliament late in the year. One of the areas we asked agencies about in that survey is their use of things like an employee assistance program. We can take on notice how detailed that is, if you like, but it is annual data.

Senator LUNDY: Is it produced each financial year and then reported post-financial year—is that the cycle?

Mr Sedgwick : The data is financial year. To the extent that it is reported, and we may or may not, it would be in the State of the service report, which is tabled at the end of November or early December.

Senator LUNDY: Say you do not have a monthly monitoring role of the use of those programs?

Mr Sedgwick : No.

Senator LUNDY: Do you think that might be a good idea, given the concern that is in the Public Service at the moment? That is promoted, I am sure, as being an available source of support and advice.

Mr Sedgwick : Every agency—that I am aware of, at least—has such an instrument. They are typically uncapped, so they are demand driven. If the employees wish to use them, then they are available to do it. Collecting data is not costless and we have not been collecting—

Senator LUNDY: But I was hoping that I would not have to include it in my questions on notice for all agencies and departments, which I am happy to do. I thought you could foreshorten that process for me.

Mr Sedgwick : Not at this stage. At the moment, we are troubling agencies for quite a bit of data.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Doesn't the employee assistance program report?

Mr Sedgwick : The employee assistance programs are contracted by each agency.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But doesn't it provide a generic report to each agency?

Mr Sedgwick : They would be providing reports to their agency, yes, which is why the agency—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I think some of the substance that Senator Lundy is looking for would be in those reports.

Mr Sedgwick : It should be, yes.

Senator LUNDY: There is no reason why this committee should wait till the State of the service report for that information to be collated, surely.

Mr Sedgwick : The reports will be in different formats. The formats will have been devised by the agencies, reflecting their needs. It is not actually a simple matter to collect consistent data across the service. We do ask questions about the use of employee assistance programs. We will take it on notice to tell you what they are; we just do not have that with us. We will be happy to give you the data when we have it, if you like, but I do not think we will have it at the level of disaggregation that you are looking for.

Senator LUNDY: Do you have any information on the regional impact of job losses so far?

Mr Sedgwick : No.

Senator LUNDY: On the geographic location of job losses?

Mr Sedgwick : Not to hand, no.

Senator LUNDY: Are you able to get it?

Mr Sedgwick : We have done regional disaggregations. They are very ropey.

Dr Schmidtchen : We have in the past reported at the level of metropolitan and state. Our data does not allow us to go with any confidence, or a great deal of confidence, below that level. It is a technical issue to do with postcodes and the relationship around how we collect the data. I am sure we could do the aggregation at that level, if that meets your need.

Senator LUNDY: It would go some way towards it. Are you able to provide that information this evening?

Dr Schmidtchen : No, I am not; I do not have that with me.

Mr Sedgwick : It would have to be a special piece of work.

Senator LUNDY: If you would take it on notice to provide the information on the job losses to date using your metro and state data analysis, that would be helpful. I have lots of questions, Senator Bernardi.

CHAIR: I understand you have lots, but we are pushed for time. We have a number of agencies here through tonight. This is the way it works and there are other senators who have questions as well. You have had 25 minutes, so I will now go to Senator Smith.

Senator LUNDY: I have one more question in my batch.

CHAIR: Okay. I asked if you had one more and then you tried to claim some more. Ask one question and then we will move on.

Senator LUNDY: I have more batches of questions.

CHAIR: We will not be getting to too many more batches, let me tell you.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I don't know about that, Chair.

CHAIR: I do.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is why we have a spillover.

Senator LUNDY: Would you please provide a breakdown, by state and territory, of classification, gender, age, category of employment, duration of employment and reason for leaving of all separations since September 2013.

Mr Sedgwick : I suspect not, to be honest, but we will do what we can for you.

Senator LUNDY: Thank you. If you could also provide me with the numbers of the full-time equivalents for each agency at this point in time, that would be appreciated.

Mr Sedgwick : We do not necessarily have that data for each agency. We have it for some, but we do not necessarily have it for each of them. It is unpublished data and it is part of that report we provide to the minister. So we will have to take that on notice.

Senator LUNDY: If you could, that would be appreciated. As I said, I can do it the long way—and I know Senator Abetz will be the first to complain about many questions on notice across a range of agencies—or we can do it the short way. I do not mind which.

Senator Abetz: It is only when you ask about my office!

Senator SMITH: If I understood Senator Lundy's question correctly, she was asking for a metropolitan-country breakdown of the redundancies or job losses. It would be good to have that in two groups: those redundancies or job losses initiated under the previous government—I think there were in the order of 14½ thousand unannounced, secret redundancies—and those of the new government that have been necessary to correct the parlous budget position. Is it possible to break them down into those two sets?

Mr Sedgwick : No.

Senator SMITH: Not at all?

Mr Sedgwick : We would not know. All that we know is that someone has left.

Senator Abetz: What you can be assured of is that the vast bulk—14½ thousand out of the 16½ thousand—will be Senator Lundy's gift to the Public Service.

Senator SMITH: Thank you very much, Minister. I want to go to the issue of how the Public Service Commission is spending its money. I want to ask first about the special workshop on mental fitness. Can anyone help me with that? It was offered by the APSC. Shall I share with you a little about the mental fitness workshop?

Mr Sedgwick : We have been doing some work in the area of assisting managers to deal with mental illness in the workplace. It could have been part of that work. It has been ongoing for a couple of years now.

Senator SMITH: This special workshop was called 'Mental fitness at work: building your strength, flexibility and endurance'. The website says:

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing, and an applied approach to optimal functioning. It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organisations to thrive.

Mental Fitness is a proactive, positive concept which—

I will not mention the lady's name—

… through her research, has defined and framed in a way that can help to improve well-being and optimal functioning. Join us for a lively, interactive and practical workshop facilitated by—

this lady—

… herself.

I am curious to know how many people attended the course.

Mr Sedgwick : You have us at a disadvantage.

Senator SMITH: I think that is from the Australian Public Service Commission website.

Mr Sedgwick : We are quite happy to track that down for you. It sounds as if it might be a course we provide to people who are prepared to pay for it.

Senator SMITH: I would be interested to know how many people attended the course and what prerequisites might have been necessary to attend the course, if any. I would also like to know whether participants took leave from work to attend and whether or not $12,724 of taxpayers' money, which was paid to the facilitator, is considered value for money.

Mr Sedgwick : I do not know what that course is. We will look into it and come back to it. We do have an issue in our workforce in the area of the management of mental health conditions.

Senator SMITH: My questioning in no way detracts from the seriousness of mental health issues for everybody in the Australian workplace. My question goes to value for money.

Mr Sedgwick : I understand.

Senator SMITH: In that vein, it would be interesting to know what postcourse assessments might have been done of the success or otherwise of $12,000 worth of expenditure on a facilitator. I want to move on. I am not familiar with these places. There is Peppers Manor House and the Craigieburn Resort?

Mr Sedgwick : Yes. They are places near Bowral.

Senator SMITH: A review of AusTender identifies that the Australian Public Service Commission may have spent just over $320,000 at Peppers Manor House for various training activities. Are you familiar with that, Mr Sedgwick?

Mr Sedgwick : I am not familiar with that number, but it is certainly true that for a number of programs—usually quite intensive, quite senior programs—we use facilities in Bowral to run residential programs.

Senator SMITH: Where is Peppers Manor House?

Mr Sedgwick : It is up near Bowral.

Senator SMITH: But, by any stretch of the imagination, $320,000 seems like a lot of money to be spending on acquiring venues for training courses. Does anyone else at the table—

Mr Sedgwick : We take very senior public servants on very intensive leadership development programs. These are quite intensive. They last quite a number of days—

Senator SMITH: And the expensive nature of the venue correlates to the success of the training course?

Mr Sedgwick : No. There is the fact that you have taken people outside of their workplace and you have given them the opportunity to spend time, quite some hours in the day, learning from each other and having some quite—we talk about the 'being' space. We talk about putting people in the position where they get to understand themselves as leaders in quite intensive ways. I do not know where the $300,000 number comes from—

Senator SMITH: AusTender.

Mr Sedgwick : but I do know that the programs that I have in mind are very highly regarded. They are regarded as providing great value for money. They have been completely reinvented in the last 12 months to two years. They are in fact a small part of an intervention that lasts for six or nine months.

Senator SMITH: Not wanting to interrupt, but I suspect the test of value for money is not yours, nor mine, but a community test of value for money, and $320,000 being spent at Peppers Manor House does, in my mind, give rise to inquiry and, at the very least, explanation. I am keen to understand how many times it has been necessary to go to Peppers Manor House, how many individuals attended and why this venue was preferred over any other venue.

Mr Sedgwick : I am quite happy to answer those questions, Senator. I can tell you that those particular interventions have been highly successful.

Senator SMITH: Great. There is the Lake Crackenback Resort. Where is that located?

Mr Sedgwick : Lake Crackenback.

Senator SMITH: Excuse my ignorance, being a Western Australian senator.

Mr Sedgwick : On the way to the snow.

Senator SMITH: Closer than Peppers Manor House?

Mr Sedgwick : It would be about the same, I suspect.

Senator SMITH: So $90,000 was spent over the last three years at Lake Crackenback Resort. Again, I would be keen to understand how many people went, what was the nature of the training—

Mr Sedgwick : Certainly, Senator.

Senator SMITH: I briefly want to move to the Woden Training Centre. I am keen to understand. Again, on my calculations—and I am happy to be found incorrect—almost $500,000, half a million dollars, was spent on catering from the Idelic Cafe in Kingston. I am not too sure if it is near Woden. It is not in Woden, because it would be the Idelic Cafe in Woden. I am wondering, again, why catering for a Public Service Commission training centre in Woden is being sourced from Kingston. Perhaps the sandwiches are exemplary; I do not know. Why is that happening? It seems, to me, such an exorbitant cost. Catering costs for 18 October 2011 to 30 December 2011: banquet and catering services, $47,500.

Mr Sedgwick : We run a lot of courses in that training centre. We have thousands and thousands of people through that training centre.

Senator SMITH: I do not argue against there being many sandwiches for many courses, but the question must be asked: is this expense necessary? It does strike me as a very, very significant quantum of money.

Mr Sedgwick : When you run a lot of courses with a lot of people, you can run up lots of money. The point is that, nonetheless, they can constitute good value for money. We are quite happy to come back and answer your questions.

Senator SMITH: That would be very good, because $500,000 over three years for a cafe proprietor sounds like a very, very successful business.

Mr Sedgwick : We are a large trainer. We are a large provider of training facilities.

Senator SMITH: If you could give me an idea of what that per-trainee cost looks like, that might be a very reasonable defence, but on the surface of it this looks like extreme waste.

Mr Sedgwick : I disagree with you, I am sorry. That is just an unjustified slur.

Senator SMITH: And the explanation. I would like to move on briefly to training centre chairs—$42,000 worth of training centre chairs. It does not tell me how many chairs. I am wondering if anyone can provide me with an explanation of whether they are—

Mr Sedgwick : We will answer that question on notice.

Senator SMITH: Fantastic. Thanks very much. You can appreciate that, in the current environment, people are being asked to make reductions in their expenditure. There has been lots of commentary about the suitability of the additional efficiency dividend or otherwise, and it does look like, over the last three years—and I am happy to be corrected—that some people have been—

Mr Sedgwick : I am sorry, Senator. That is not fair. We run a major business, and that is just not fair.

Senator SMITH: I am wondering whether Peppers Manor House or Lake Crackenback Resort really withstand public scrutiny in the environment—not just the environment that we are currently in but the previous environment.

Mr Sedgwick : I think you will find that the facilities that they offer are exactly what we need for the kinds of purposes that are run. In fact, you will probably find that at most times they are booked by corporates.

Senator SMITH: Expenditure around shareholder money is very different to expenditure around taxpayer money, so it will be very interesting to hear what the defence is. Thanks very much, Chair.

CHAIR: Mr Sedgwick, you will recall that at last estimates we agreed that, if ways of improving productivity could not be found, we would be looking at around 10,000 job losses were the CPSU's 12 per cent wage claim to succeed. That is a matter in the Hansard. I therefore ask you and your group to confirm that some agencies have or have not been conducting voluntary redundancy rounds to meet the 2013-14 budget.

Mr Sedgwick : A number of agencies have been conducting voluntary redundancy rounds for some time.

CHAIR: Do you have any indication of the number of agencies that are doing this?

Mr Sedgwick : No, I do not. I do not have that list with me.

CHAIR: Would you be able to provide that to me on notice?

Mr Sedgwick : We do not necessarily know them all, but we can give you what we know.

CHAIR: Could I ask the officials who oversee the bargaining process whether they are aware of any agencies that believe they will not be able to offer wage increases during the current bargaining round without cutting staffing numbers significantly?

Mr Sedgwick : The government's policy is that arbitrary reductions in staff numbers will not be allowed to justify a wage increase. It would only be in circumstances in which a business process has been re-engineered, for example, that that could occur.

CHAIR: So, in the absence of supplementation, redundancies cannot occur to justify a wage increase? Is that correct?

Mr Sedgwick : Budget supplementation will not fund a wage rise. The rules have been in place for some years and the way that they happen to be operating at the moment is because of the size of the efficiency dividend. There is no supplementation from the budget for wage increases, therefore improvements in wages need to be funded either through improvements in productivity that will lead to cost savings or by some other means of finding savings within the budget—but not by arbitrary reductions in staff numbers.

CHAIR: We did mention that earlier. Unless there are ways of improving productivity, this claim of around 12½ per cent, effectively, compounded—it is a 12 per cent claim by the CPSU—would force redundancies. Yet you are telling me that it is not possible to make them redundant as a result of wage claims.

Mr Sedgwick : The government's policy is that an employer cannot make an offer that is simply funded by arbitrary reductions in staff numbers. The offer has to be justified by productivity improvement and, to the extent that that productivity improvement does not lead to a cashable saving, then it needs to be demonstrated where the money is coming from.

CHAIR: Okay. Has there been any indication that the CPSU has backed off from its request for a four per cent per annum pay rise annually for three years—which as I said, if you assume it is compounded, is really more like 12½ per cent over those four years.

Mr Sedgwick : Not that I have observed.

CHAIR: No. So despite the evidence that was presented at the last estimates hearing and which I understand you have confirmed today, the CPSU's persistence in making this claim could ultimately cost 10,000 or more jobs, which is the figure that we agreed on as a conservative estimate?

Mr Sedgwick : I find it difficult to answer your question because the employer's policy is that we will not play that game. The employer's policy is that we will not countenance, as a productivity improvement, an arbitrary staff cut.

CHAIR: So the employer is protecting the jobs of CPSU members—the civil servants, the public service—in the absence of the union doing the right thing and trying to protect their jobs?

Mr Sedgwick : That is language that I probably would not use, Chair.

CHAIR: No, but you know—

Senator LUNDY: I would accept that as a reasonable response, Mr Sedgwick, given he is trying to verbal you.

CHAIR: I have genuine turn of phrase, you see, which is about cutting through all the malarkey. This is the simple point: if the CPSU persists with its claim and if it were allowed to succeed, the evidence is that 10,000 jobs would be lost in the public service, notwithstanding—

Mr Sedgwick : In the absence of productivity gains—

CHAIR: In the absence of productivity gains.

Mr Sedgwick : That is a discussion we are still having.

CHAIR: The saving grace in this is that the employer, being the government, is refusing to play the CPSU's games in the interest of protecting the jobs of public servants. Is that correct?

Senator LUNDY: With respect, chair, the government also sets the parameters around the policy of job—

CHAIR: I have just asked the question. Senator Lundy, just wait, please. You have had your turn. Mr Sedgwick, am I correct? Am I correct, Mr Sedgwick?

Mr Sedgwick : It is language I prefer not to use.

CHAIR: It does not matter whether you use the language or not; there is all sorts of language out there.

Senator LUNDY: Do not allow yourself to be verballed, Mr Sedgwick.

CHAIR: Am I correct, Mr Sedgwick?

Senator LUNDY: Perhaps I could chair the meeting in the absence of a chair who understands the rules.

CHAIR: Senator Lundy—

Senator LUNDY: You cannot verbal witnesses.

CHAIR: Senator Lundy, what you are doing—

Senator LUNDY: You are verballing the witness.

CHAIR: No, Senator Lundy. What you are doing is trying to interject yourself because you have been exposed. Mr Sedgwick, you may not like the language I have chosen; but is my assessment correct or incorrect, notwithstanding the language I have chosen to use?

Mr Sedgwick : We have agreed that unless we can find productivity improvements to fund wage rises then they will not be allowed to occur.

CHAIR: Before we conclude this part, Senator Faulkner, you wanted to raise a matter.

Senator LUNDY: I have some more questions.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And I have got questions. We have an hour yet.

CHAIR: No. I beg your pardon, it is not an hour that is allocated. We are making up time.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, you cannot crimp the time unilaterally.

CHAIR: Unfortunately, we can put this to a committee, if you would like, Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, we will.

CHAIR: Senator Faulkner, I would ask you to raise the issue that you put.

Senator FAULKNER: This will not take long, Chair. Mr Sedgwick, at the last estimates round, I asked you some questions about section 32 of the Public Service Act in relation to nominees and nominations for public office for certain public servants who were not employed under the Public Service Act. I am not being critical of you. I think the questions have possibly just fallen through the cracks. I do not know if you have responded but the committee has not received them. I think they may have got missed out in the numbering of the questions on notice. No criticism intended and it is not urgent, but I would like to refer you to those questions which appear on pages 123 and 124 of the February estimates round. I do not want to take any time, but I just indicate to you that I am interested in pursuing that. I am interested in your response, and you were going to give some thought to them. I would appreciate it if they could be treated, if you like, as questions on notice for this estimates round. There may be some form of administrative foul-up. It is neither here nor there. I am just keen for it to be progressed.

Mr Sedgwick : Certainly. It did not appear as a question on notice.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes. As I say, there is no criticism intended or anything like that. I am just keen for the issue to be addressed on notice by the APSC.

Mr Sedgwick : Okay. We will do so, Senator. The issue is straightforward; the resolution is not.

Senator FAULKNER: I am assuming the issue is pretty much as I outlined it.

Mr Sedgwick : Yes, indeed. The individual was reinstated; but it is the principle.

Senator FAULKNER: There is a broader issue.

Mr Sedgwick : Yes, there is.

Senator FAULKNER: It is not a partisan matter but it is a critical issue for a public servant not employed under the Australian Public Service Act who might nominate for public office; but I do not want to go over that here. I merely wanted to flag it. I suspect it has somehow missed the boat. If I could ask you to take those questions on notice in this round, I would appreciate it.

Mr Sedgwick : Certainly.

Senator FAULKNER: Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Mr Sedgwick, that concludes the time we have allocated.

Senator LUNDY: Sorry, Chair, we have still got questions.

CHAIR: I understand. You have to put your questions on notice because we have a number of other agencies to deal with this afternoon. With that, Mr Sedgwick—

Senator LUNDY: No, I would like to move that we dissent in your ruling to allow continuing questions of the Australian Public Service Commissioner.

CHAIR: Mr Sedgwick, I apologise for this. What we will do is suspend while the committee has a private meeting, and I will ask the members of the committee to confirm how we will proceed.

Proceedings suspended from 20:48 to 20:50

CHAIR: The committee has resumed after that brief suspension. The committee has resolved to move on to the next agency. That concludes the questioning of the Australian Public Service Commissioner. I thank you for your attendance.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I will be placing some questions on notice.

CHAIR: Questions will be placed on notice I am sure. May I ask—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: May I interrupt for one moment please?

CHAIR: Yes, Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Firstly, I indicate my objection to the fact that the committee has refused to allow me to ask any questions of this agency. Secondly, I indicate I will be putting questions on notice. I am astounded that without agreement between himself and the deputy chair, that the Chair has unilaterally decided to reorganise the time that had been allocated—

CHAIR: If you want to play those games—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am not playing any games.

CHAIR: I am absolutely happy to say that your colleagues did not think enough of you to allocate some time for you to ask some questions.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, that has nothing to do with it, and you know it.

CHAIR: Thank you very much to the Australian Public Service Commissioner. I ask that representatives from the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor join the minister.