Labor's new reforms fail the public sector: Stone

THE Fair Work Amendment introduced into the Federal House of Representatives this week probably offers better politics for the Labor Party than protection for public servants in Queensland.

It paints a handy picture for the Labor Party: while the LNP is cutting jobs, the ALP is trying to protect workers.  But the unfortunate truth is that most public sector workers will be no better off as a result of this bill.

The amendment only offers protection in cases where the work of the public service is being outsourced.  If a former public servant finds that within three months of being pushed out of the public service they are doing exactly the same work in the private sector (i.e. their part of the public service has effectively been privatised), they will be entitled to the same pay and conditions as they enjoyed while performing that work in the public sector.

There is no doubt that we will see plenty of such outsourcing to the private sector.  The Queensland Government has already made some specific announcements: the State Reporting Bureau is to be outsourced, as is some of the forensic science work done at the John Tonge Centre, and the Government's airwing assets may also soon be shuffled off to the private sector.

And the Government has specifically legislated to remove the protections against outsourcing from awards and enterprise bargaining agreements - a sure indication of their plans for the future.

But most of the many thousands of public sector workers being shown the door are not being outsourced.  They are simply being sacked, in clear violation of an election commitment.

For them, this amendment offers nothing.

They will pack up their desks and head for the door, unsure about their future, worried for their families, saddened to part with friends and colleagues, with ceaseless spin and deception making an already difficult situation that much harder.

They'll be told that their departure is voluntary, but if they had chosen to be redeployed and were unsuccessful after four months (a real risk given that the budget made clear that there will be 10 600 redundancies), they would have been retrenched with a smaller payout.  Some choice.

They'll recall the LNP's oft-stated commitment to front line services, even though some of them are nurses and doctors.

They'll hear implausible exaggerations about Queensland's financial position rolled out as justification for their dismissal.  They may well wonder how they unwittingly came to settle in Spain.

They may also wonder how we cannot afford their salaries while we can afford to forego $211 million over the forward estimates freezing car registration on some large vehicles (p.133), over $90 million per year abolishing the waste levy (p.128), $430 million over the forward estimates by raising the payroll tax threshold (p.138), and $917 million over the forward estimates by reintroducing concessional stamp duty (p.138).

They could be puzzled that, at the same time as we strangle the State's income, we can manage to splash $92 million on an $80 non-means tested handout to every household with a water connection (p.41), and $63 million on compensation for electricity retailers to cover lost revenue from a freeze on the standard residential electricity tariff (p.41).

Strange priorities for Spain, no?

I know, I know.  These measures are all in fulfillment of election promises.

But permanent public servants were also promised that they would not be forced out of their jobs and the Queensland community was promised that it would not have to suffer cuts to front line services.

So don't expect those who have lost their livelihoods to take much comfort in the knowledge that these rather more serious commitments have been sacrificed to pay for opportunistic pandering to the fiction that we are suffering a cost of living crisis.

Adam Stone is Lead Senate Candidate for the Queensland Greens.

Topics:  fair work greens opinion public service

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