I’m on Steve Austin’s ABC radio program tomorrow along with former Queensland Labor A-G Cameron Dick. Not sure what we are going to talk about, but there’s a good chance public service cuts will be on the list.
I’ve been wondering how Campbell Newman has reached the conclusion that 20,000 public servants have to go, and whether this is a reasonable figure.
While I still don’t know how he exactly does his calculations, I have found at least one way of triangulating them. In 2001 Labor had been in power more or less since 1989, with a brief 2 year interregnum of minority coalition rule between 1996 and 1998.
It would therefore seem reasonable to assume that the level of public service in 2001 was one that not too many Labor supporters would be able to criticise (although Coaltion supporters might suspect it had run ahead of itself a little). According to this helpful graph from the Courier Mail there were 147,722 public servants then.
In 2011 the graph shows that were 206,082, growth of 40%.
Using a generous population growth rate of 2.5%, over the corresponding period there were only 28% more Queenslanders to be publicly serviced.
If the public service had kept pace with population, rather than outpacing it, there would be 17,718 fewer public servants today. Allow for some increased efficiency and economies of scale that should be present in a larger state, and Newman could argue that he is merely restoring Queensland to the position that it was in under Peter Beattie in 2001.
Others might argue he’s not really trying hard enough.
What would be really interesting would be to compare Queensland’s public service employment figures against those in the other states to see how we compare to best practice.