I’ve always loved Julie Novak – in the public sector reform sense of love, that is. She operates on the technical side of what is a highly political zone, but her take is the same as mine:
Since public sector employment costs average about 44 per cent of general government sector operating budgets in the three big states, governments should reduce their workforces as part of meaningful fiscal consolidation strategies.
But the quantum of the public service cuts that the O’Farrell, Baillieu and Newman governments have announced or implemented have been, to put it kindly, meek and mild at best.
And she hasn’t had the benefit of quantifying public sector productivity on the ground.
So, there is a real issue that isn’t being addressed due to political pussy-ness. Even Campbell Newman’s controversial announcements aren’t that large. What’s worse is that no real communication strategy or action is in place to build community awareness of the problem or acceptance of the need to address it.
I’ve argued this before in relation to Workers Comp, OH&S and other areas that the Left successfully use to portray good policy as ‘nasty’. The fault lies with Centre-Right political operatives’ and no-one else. They don’t effectively communicate key policy reform issues to people outside the political class. Nor do they communicate policy courageously – and continuously – outside the electoral cycle.
By comparison, the vested interests have a huge machine at their disposal. The Public Sector has a huge union movement, with masses of funding and “research institution” support, the emotional support of the mainstream media, and the capacity to use industrial action that affects absolutely everybody.
But they’re kidding themselves if they think they’ve got an argument. The numbers don’t lie.
According to the ABS, excluding the tertiary education sector, there were over one million state government employees in NSW, Victoria and Queensland as at June 2011.
In effect the job reductions already announced or implemented by coalition governments in the three big states roughly amount to less than two per cent of total state government employment.
Throw in productivity failures and the pathway of good policy is clear. The challenge is down to Baillieu, O’Farrell and Newman to deliver. Their progress thus far in both action and communication suggests we will have a long wait.