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Canberra to bear brunt of public service cuts

Amanda Whitley

There was a massive outcry and a $100 million assistance package announced when 2900 Holden workers lost their jobs, but slash 6500 positions (in Canberra alone) from the public service and it’s seen by many Australians as just ‘trimming the fat’.

Where’s the outrage? Where’s the sympathy for the town whose main industry is being cut? Because, when it comes down to it – public servants are people like any others – they have lives and mortgages and responsibilities. And this is their reward for working on services that aim to better the lives of Australian citizens?

Canberra Business Council Chief Executive Officer, Chris Faulks says she’s concerned that on top of all the other savings measures in the Budget, a cut of 16,500 Australian Public Service jobs, a further 0.25% efficiency dividend, and the abolition of 70 government agencies will all have an additional negative impact on the ACT economy and local businesses.

“The public sector remains our main industry”, Ms Faulks said. “Even though our private sector economy is strengthening and diversifying,”

“Around 40 per cent of our population is employed in the federal public sector. With such a high proportion of our employment and economy reliant, directly or indirectly on the public sector, any cuts impact more heavily here than in other cities and towns around Australia. The public sector is like our BHP, our Holden.

“Over a third of the 16,500 public sector job cuts announced in tonight’s Budget are likely to be made in Canberra. This means as many as 6,500 Canberrans or 3 per cent of the local workforce could lose their jobs,” Ms Faulks said.

When a similar number of public service jobs were cut in 1996 the ACT went into recession.

“However, as significant as these cuts are, we do not expect the outcome from this contraction in public sector employment to be as dire for the ACT economy as it was in 1996,” Ms Faulks said. “Since 1996 our economy has expanded and our private sector is more robust and resilient.

“Nevertheless we would have welcomed the Budget containing more specific initiatives to support the local economy to transition away from the current overreliance on the public sector.

“Our concern is that in this Budget the Federal Government doesn’t seem to have recognised and responded to the disproportionate impact these cutbacks will have in Canberra.”

No matter what your political leaning, or your views on the effectiveness on the public service, last night’s Budget announcement was concerning for all Canberrans…because public servants buy houses, they eat out at restaurants, they spend on fashion. Less public servants means less dollars for the ‘supply’ industries.

We’re just starting to hit our straps – we have a blossoming entrepreneurial culture, but without an acknowledgement that the public service is still the economic lifeblood of this town and the effect that cuts like this could have on our city, these are uncertain times. One thing is for sure – buying local has never been more important.

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Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

  • Sarah

    Great article.
    Well written and it contains my thoughts and sentiments precisely.
    My much loved city has tough times ahead
    Get out there kids and support this beautiful place and the wonderful people who choose to live here

  • sue

    Spot on! But l have to wonder where Ms Faulks gets this info from, Ms Faulks said. “Even though our private sector economy is strengthening and diversifying,” The small business owners l speak to all say the same thing,” just ticking over”, “down by 30%”. This huge job cut in the PS will have a dramatic effect on our economy.

  • Wendy Johnson

    I simply couldn’t agree more. Like many Canberrans I know and work with many public servants who work bloody hard and make amazing contributions to this country.

  • Steph
  • Well written Amanda. It is going to be an interesting few months ahead for everyone.

  • Vivienne

    Well done! This really needs to be said.

  • TrickyT

    Thank you – we are people with families and commitments just like any other sector. It seems the Australian way to make ambit claims about what we do (or don’t do as the sentiment suggests) with no one expressing outrage. I am very worried about our bush capital as a lot of the funding model for future health and education income for the states is based on population, so it’s potentially a double whammy for the ACT.

  • Doug Mulley

    Interesting, if not depressing. As a local businessman, I appreciate your finishing statement ‘Buying local has never been more important’.

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