ABS staff cutbacks

A document was leaked from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which showed it is planning to sack around 200 staff to pursue efficiency dividends to allow a pay rise to occur. I was interviewed by ABC economics commentator Stephen Long as part of a segment he put together on the national ABC current affairs show PM tonight which examined this issue.

Click for the full Transcript of the segment.

Click for the full mp3 podcast

My views are obvious from the piece. But what Stephen edited out to make the segment work within his time limit was a comment I made about pro-cyclical fiscal policy. The point is that critics of fiscal policy activism have argued that because data is so lagged in getting to us, aggressive fiscal interventions (like a stimulus) sometimes take too long to implement and by the time they are impacting the private business cycle has turned anyway – thus, making the fiscal policy a further growth surge with the danger of inflation. Counter-cyclical policy, instead, aims to fill the burgeoning spending gap left by the evacuation of private spending. The point is that you not only need timely data but also good data. I cannot see why you would cut spending to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Digression: WorkChoices dies, arise WorkChoices Lite

Well today the Senate finally signed off on the new Fair Work Bill. I guess it is a time to be happy. But given that workers in small businesses are not protected for the first 12 months from capricious behaviour there really isn’t much to be happy about. Not to mention the failure to reinstate proper Safety Net procedures for setting the minimum wage. But at least the last regime is slowly being taken out of the statutes.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. While I do not posess in-depth knowledge of the situation at the ABS, I notice that it is occuring against the backdrop of a new collective agreement being negotiated.

    My experience at the level of the state public sector is that it is not uncommon for an improvement in wages/conditions to be offered to some staff and not to others (this was done to us with our last EBA), or even at the expense of others in order to drive a wedge between different groups who have made a united approach.

    Purely on the face of it, all I really see is a good, old fashioned divide-and-conquer approach by management to the negotiation of a new agreement. It may transpire that few or no jobs are lost at all and that it is really just a strategy to water down bargaining claims.

    Without having any further knowledge of the issue, that is how it appears to me.

  2. Dear Lefty

    I don’t know much about the negotiations that are going on. But if I was the Federal government I would fully fund reasonable pay rises for all the national statistics workers.

    best wishes

  3. Yes, so would I. Unfortunately, I am not the federal government.

    I do know that at the state level, we are not really dealing with a minister (our blokes have met him but once) so much as we are dealing with high level public servants who consider it their job to present the government with savings. This is not consistent with improvements in wages, conditions and overall service delivery to the public.

    Neo-liberal attitudes are deeply embedded within the upper echalons of the public service. I was once present at a training course in which our regional financial manager told school staff that we should endevour to “think of schools as a business and children as the product”. I took great exception to that! But that is, sadly, typical of the attitude in my experience.

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