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Transcript of doorstop: Canberra: 9 August 2018: Labor's plans for the public service; National Energy Guarantee; Emma Husar

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SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plans for the public service; National Energy

Guarantee; Emma Husar


announcing today to the Australian Public Service are about three things: better

services for Australians, better advice to governments, and better value for money

for Australian taxpayers. Under the Coalition, the public service has been

hopelessly compromised by politicisation, by wasted money on consultants and

contractors and labour hire, and by failing to provide the sorts of services that

Australians need and deserve, particularly when it comes to long waiting times

when they're trying to get their Centrelink payments arranged.

What we're proposing today is to start to address some of those issues so that

Australians can get the services that they need and deserve, governments can get

good advice from a skilled public service, and we can get value for money by

saving money by reining in waste on consultants and contractors and labour hire,

and reinvesting some of that back into the public service, particularly for services

for Australians right around the country.

JOURNALIST: Dr Chalmers, does today's announcement mean that the public

service will be larger, and take up a larger share of Government spending under


CHALMERS: What we're saying today is that we would abolish the ASL cap,

which is a cap that is imposed bluntly and arbitrarily by the Coalition Government,

which just forces agencies to go and spend more and more money on external

labour hire. So the overall budget of the public service will remain capped, but

departments will be able to do more to decide their own staffing needs within their

own budget allocation. This is not a free-for-all for public servants in Canberra and

around the country. There won't be heaps of new public servants. What it will

mean is the work that is often done by labour hire and consultants and contractors

can be brought in-house, which will cost the Australian taxpayer less money and

help build the capacity of the public service.

JOURNALIST: How can Labor then fix those problems it says the Government's

created in the public service without additional revenue?

CHALMERS: We're saying that we would abolish the additional efficiency dividend

which comes in next year and we'd invest in another 1200 Centrelink staff. So we

will be investing in the public service. But we'll be paying for that by reining in

wasteful spending on contractors and consultants and labour hire, which has done

a lot of damage, not just to the public service but also to the Commonwealth

Budget. What the Coalition Government is doing is spending more money on

inferior outcomes, and what we're proposing to do is to rein in those costs, and to

make sure that we can get public servants doing the job they should be doing,

which is providing good services to Australians and good advice to governments in

a really cost effective way.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned in your speech cutting travel spending for public

servants. How much fat is there to trim? How much money can you save?

CHALMERS: We're proposing to cut something like 10 per cent of the travel

budget, and that depends of course on the travel budget that we inherit. But right

now we have travel costing more than half-a-billion dollars, and that is not

appropriate when we've got public service numbers down, and we've got the

technology to meet in other ways. So we're proposing to take a fairly modest cut

from public service travel to help pay for the investments that we need to make -

for example, in the Department of Human Services' staff.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned the efficiency dividend as well. Why not restore the

funding that's been cut in previous years?

CHALMERS: We need to do what we can, consistent with providing good value for

money, being responsible with the budget. One of our overriding priorities is to only

promise what we can afford to deliver, and we think an important way to go about

dealing with the efficiency dividend is to not proceed with the additional one next

year. We can't afford to fill in all of the efficiency dividends over the years. They've

served a useful purpose in the past. Those days are gone now. So our

commitment is to restore that additional efficiency dividend next financial year at a

cost of around $400 million.

JOURNALIST: Just quickly, energy ministers are meeting tomorrow to discuss the

NEG. Would you be encouraging Queensland Labor to be conciliatory and try to

find some agreement here, and come out of that meeting tomorrow with


CHALMERS: I think the state governments, including the state government in

Queensland, have been constructive in saying what they require is a proper

commitment to renewable energy in this country. We won't get downward pressure

on prices, we certainly won't get downward pressure on pollution levels, unless we

as a country properly invest in renewable energy. What Annastacia Palaszczuk,

the Premier of Queensland, has rightly pointed out is that the current energy

guarantee on the table is a recipe for higher prices and less renewables and that's

not acceptable to a number of the states who want to see lower prices, less

pollution and that means more renewable energy.

JOURNALIST: And lastly, Emma Husar's decision not to stand at the next election

has been described by some in the party as "putting the party first". Is that how you

see it?

CHALMERS: Emma's made her statement about not contesting the next election.

We should all respect that announcement that she has made. There's an

investigation going on by the party into what has happened here. I don't have all

the facts available to me. I have enjoyed working with Emma over the last couple

of years. There have been some very unfortunate things happen over the last little

while, but she's made her announcement, and we should respect that.

Thank you.