June 28, 2012 | Graham

Why 20K Queensland public servants could lose their jobs

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.

Queensland Public Service Growth 2001-2012

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.

Posted by Graham at 2:36 pm | Comments (12) |


  1. Graham, I’ve been in the public service (Health) for many years, and prior to 2000, we were completely understaffed and Queenslander’s under-serviced. Is this what you want to go back to? Yes benchmarking would be very interesting. Just don’t make it Tasmania nor South Australia, where they are really suffering.

    Comment by Andrew Coates — June 28, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

  2. Michael Thomas https://twitter.com/TheRealMickyT has a graph suggests the growth has been in police, teachers, health workers and community workers. https://p.twimg.com/AwejdYjCMAA2vlG.png:large Source is Together Queensland AKA Queensland Public Service Union

    Comment by Graham — June 28, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

  3. I am on Together Queensland, Union of Employees Council. I’ve never seen this graph. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Comment by Andrew Coates — June 29, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

  4. If you haven’t seen it you haven’t seen it, and I am only going on Michael’s word. He did give me further details and said “Data source is Public Service Commission MOHRI data – all publicly available in the PSC annual reports.” I’ve actually tracked the data down, and it is in this report http://www.psc.qld.gov.au/library/document/catalogue/workforce-statistics/characteristics-qps.pdf.

    Comment by Graham — June 30, 2012 @ 9:31 am

  5. Hi all

    Not surprising it hadn’t been seen, it was only released by our economist on Friday, Graham got a sneek preview in response to his graph. Full set of graphs derived from PSC annual reporst here: http://togetherqld.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/qld-public-service-composition-and-growth-statistics/

    Comment by Michael Thomas — June 30, 2012 @ 2:27 pm

  6. Graham,

    That graph is not really relevant to what the LNP is doing; although the number of job cuts you are suggesting probably is. I’d like to see an historical graph of ALL employees in the public service, including full time, contractors, temporary and casual workers, graphed together and seperately, and against population, for the last 50 years. Be nice to see some comparisons between each employment type and efficiency of service that is generated too; I’m sure they’d have the data there somewhere and I’m just as certain that it would probably show that public service full time employees are by far the least productive. According to the following link, there is close to 32000 temporary workers in the Queensland Public Service at the moment. It seems to me this is how many may lose their job come monday.


    Comment by JN — June 30, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

  7. The MOHRI data that these graphs are drawn from captures permanent Public Servants as well as casual and temporary Public Servants. It won’t capture contractors, but while a lot of money is spent on them, there actually aren’t that many, certainly not enough to affect the trends the graphs reveal.

    As to the suggestion you break the numbers down further, the PSC data doesn’t do that, but it strikes me that’s just denying what the facts, not the spin, shows. The graphs clearly show that the only areas where the Public Service growth outpaced population growth in in the areas the Government is saying it wants to grow now – Police, Health, Communities and Schools. We can keep searching for other ‘facts’ that will fit the prejudices against Public Servants, but that’s denying what the data shows.

    Finally, there are some lazy Public Servants, they’re people, some people are lazy. You’ll find a few of them in the private sector too.

    Comment by Michael Thomas — June 30, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

  8. I agree with you Michael and it seems it is mostly Health that has made the greatest growth. I do agree that there are lazy workers everywhere and certainly there would be in Health as well. But I don’t know many like that and I do know that there are many good project people out of action now and back to their substantive positions. This is a great shame because it threatens the progress of some great initiatives. An example are the Statewide Clinical Networks and the initiatives they have developed. The current cutbacks to “save” Queenslands economy are a setback to services in Queensland.
    Doesn’t the truth lie in Govt investment funds of Queenslanders lost in 2006-08 GFC crises. Is poor investment of then surplus funds!

    Comment by Andrew Coates — June 30, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

  9. Thanks for clearing that up Michael, I wasn’t certain of that data. I can’t really see where you get your other ideas from concerning my post – I was suggesting that the public service is inefficient partly because of the protections given to full time permanent staff – the type of protections that workers are granted in very few other industries. Having said that, inefficiency is by no way a public service issue only. Western corporations are now mired by red tape and complex procedure. Then there is this recent obsession with safety and liability. You know a company is in trouble when they are effectively run by an HR department that outnumbers any other department. You know a building industry is in trouble when you have to pay a scaffolder and several workers to come in just so you can get a two foot section of gutter replaced. That’s effectively what our public services are in Australia – way too much red tape, nowhere near enough service. It’s not the fault of any particular government or the public service itself; it is a cancer that has been growing for decades – overly complex tax laws, ridiculously complex social security legislation, benefit schemes and working hours that quite frankly are balanced way too much in the workers favour, a health system mired in red tape and complexity, one more level of goverment than is required etc etc. No-one seems to have the balls to do what needs to be done and drastically simplify the system but the need is undeniable and at least Can’t Do is starting down that road. Basically, while many would take me to task for saying this; there is a point where the group interest outweighs the interest of the individual. There is a point where you can place a value on a human life. This used to be an accepted risk in the west, particularly in highly dangerous occupations; not so now. All we are doing with our relentless pursuit of safety, reducing liability and complications of social systems uis reducing our international competetiveness and, ultimately, our standard of living. It’s ironic isn’t it – the very thing we are trying to protect is the very thing we are destroying.

    Comment by JN — July 1, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  10. What are “State wide Clinical Networks” Andrew? I’ve never heard of them (not my field, so not surprising).

    Comment by Graham — July 1, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

  11. “State wide Clinical Networks” are networked groupings of clinical specialists, comprising Drs nurses and allied health in particular disciplines. The purpose is to improve our specialties across the state, focusing on patient services and education. I am in the Respiratory network and an example of what we have developed is an Indiginous Health Worker training program for performing spirometry. To-date we have trained 50 health workers in only a short time. The program is dependent on core Qld Health funding. Other examples are educational DVDs for patients, and an online and practical general spirometer training package for Qld Health workers and those in private practice. These kinds of initiatives are now threatened by the current budgetary cuts. We were meeting face to face 4 times a year. And now that has had to end. The funding of online meetings for the development of clinical practice standards for Queensland have now had funding stopped to them. It’s not good. It is a set back to good progress – Nationally recognized progress for Queenslanders.
    I just hope that our Government stop and re-consider the implications of these cuts.

    Comment by Andrew Coates — July 2, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

  12. It is obvious that you cannot raise the size if the public service at a rate considerably higher than the population growth. The tax dollars have to come from somewhere to pay for this expense, hence the current large deficit we find ourselves in along with a poorer credit rating has contributed to our current dillema. So many people whinge and complain and yet are oblivious to the fact that QLD is is major debt. I am not against the growth and the very definite need of public servants, however i do get very annoyed when I hear from 2 of my close relatives who both work in the the public service, one in health and the other in centrelink, who both have very good work ethics and cannot believe the amount of people required to run a specific office. The nephew who works in health says there are 20 people who work in his area and he says 5-10 could easily do the job, most spend there day on the internet and facebook and twitter!!
    The other made very similar comments. Now I have to put this in percpective and think if I ran a business what would I do. Well the obvious answer is if I did nothing I would go broke.
    It is painfully obvious that trimming needs to take place and that QLD taxpayers are getting there monies worth for a good day’s pay. You cannot hide from the facts and of course there are many public servants who want to protect these cusshy jobs. And yes there are many public servants who do a good job and work hard. As is the case in any industry, workplace efficiency and productivity is paramoount to remain alive, I think the same should be applied in a scaled down way with the public service.

    Comment by STEVE — August 27, 2012 @ 9:52 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.