Standing up for Canberra

Australian Public Service

As I stand here today, every single enterprise agreement across the entire Australian Public Service has expired—that is, across 117 agencies. Out of those 117, only 19 agencies have tabled a pay proposal. Two agencies—the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the Department of Human Services—are taking industrial action. But many more will soon join those two, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Employment, the Department of Defence, Geoscience Australia, the CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Criminology.

The Abbott government is facing widespread industrial action as a result of the appalling deals being offered to public servants. These are the servants of democracy. It is because of public servants that our national interests are protected abroad; that the sick, the elderly and the disabled are care for, are looked after. It is because of public servants that our cities and towns are kept safe, and yet, despite this, the Abbott government is attacking their pay and conditions. The employment minister is trying to introduce nasty deals that slash conditions, remove rights, diminish job security, increase hours, cut super protections, dilute redundancy rights and, in some cases, actually reduce employees' take-home pay.

Enterprise bargaining agreements expired in the middle of last year, yet pay offers for the vast majority of departments and agencies will be put on the table this year. During this time, public servants are receiving no allowance for inflation on their wages, meaning they are financially worse off. Take the defence department, for example. Just last month the defence department's staff were offered a below inflation deal that would see their real wages fall as well as lose out on a number of hard fought for conditions. Or just look at what is happening in the CSIRO. After the Abbott government cut its budget by $115 million last year, resulting in hundreds of job losses, site closures and the abandonment of research, the government is now attacking the remaining workers' pay and conditions. It wants to increase their total working hours, remove leave and make it harder for people to get promoted.

But it is not only public servants who are being attacked by this government through their pay and conditions. The Australian Public Service shed 11,000 jobs last year—that is steepest downturn in APS jobs since John Howard's first term as Prime Minister. Thousands of public servants in Canberra have little to no job security, placing them under enormous personal strain. Coalition governments have form on this: they have shown time and time again that they have nothing but contempt for the Public Service, complete disdain and disrespect for our servants of democracy. The damage done by the Abbott government will take a decade or more to fix because you cannot put the Public Service back together overnight.

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