Australian government flags further IT cuts

The Australian Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has flagged that the government will look for more savings in IT.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

The Australian government has said that it will look for more efficiencies in IT before cutting public service jobs.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said on Tuesday that while the public service was contracting by 3,300 positions in the last budget, the government wasn't intending to bring in razor gangs to slash the public sector workforce.

"The Gillard government understands the importance of efficiently and cost-effectively delivering services to the Australian community, and that this requires maintaining a well-resourced, highly skilled public service capable of meeting complex demands and challenges," he said.

"We don't believe in the wholesale slashing of public sector jobs like we've seen in Queensland, which rob the community of vital services, and which Tony Abbott would do if elected."

Dreyfus highlighted that since 2007, the government had made AU$13 billion in savings from the public sector, including AU$2 billion in IT savings, and more is planned.

"The Gillard government is focused on finding government efficiencies in ... IT, hospitality, recruitment, not by slashing jobs, which directly impact on the community and the important services they rely on," he said.

The savings in IT came as a result of the Gershon Report, delivered by then Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner. The report was conducted by Sir Peter Gershon and released in 2008, setting off a massive overhaul of the use of government IT. The report estimated a saving of AU$1.5 billion over five years. Half of this money was originally supposed to go back to the agencies, but prior to the 2010 federal election, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that AU$447.5 million of the saved amount would not be quarantined for IT projects, and agencies would instead have to bid for IT funding.

The total number of people employed in the Federal government public sector is estimated to be at 258,000 in this financial year, according to the last federal budget. When Labor came into power in 2007, staffing levels stood at an estimated 243,000.

Should Opposition Leader Tony Abbott win the September federal election, it is widely expected that the Coalition would make cuts to the public service. No policy has been announced yet, however, in the party's "Real Solutions" document, it promises to deliver "a more effective and responsive public service".

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