More than 70 government agencies will be merged or abolished, including the Royal Australian Mint, with 16,000 public service jobs to be slashed in tomorrow’s federal budget.
Following the dismantling of 40 government bodies last year, Fairfax Media and News Corp reported Treasurer Joe Hockey would target 70 others to achieve a combined four-year saving of $470 million.
The Australian Financial Review says the government will also put other agencies on notice in foreshadowing deeper consolidation later in the year.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said on ABC radio this morning the government was “way too big and way too wasteful”.
“Yes, there will be a significant effort in this budget as a second phase in our effort to reduce the size of government, which will be followed with further efforts down the track, and really the purpose is to make sure that government administration is as efficient and cost effective as possible,” Senator Cormann said.
“What we’re looking at very carefully is the functions that are being performed, how they compare with functions being performed by other agencies, and where it makes sense to merge various bodies into one or where it makes sense to ask the private sector to perform certain functions.”
The agencies earmarked for abolition now range from the obscure Whitlam government Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation, to the more contemporary Council of Australian Governments Reform Council.’
It also include the Renewable Energy Agency and the National Water Commission with the National Gallery and National Library will to be forced to merge their backroom administrations.
The AFR also said a decision had also been made to privatise the mint, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission corporate register, Australian Hearing, and Defence Housing Australia.
The budget will also announce the axing of 16,000 federal public servants instead of the government’s pre-election target of 12,000 positions.
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney hit out at the proposed cuts saying public servants were a “very important social safety net”.
“I firmly believe that this unfortunately is looking after the big business interests by handing over government agencies … to the private sector so the private sector can make a profit from them,” she said.
Eventually, it could get to the point where there were very few services offered by the commonwealth, she said.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the government was “hopelessly out of touch with the real world”.
He said the budget would be judged on “how many people are losing their jobs”.
“It’s not the job of the Abbott government to make life harder for average Australians who get up and make Australia work every day.”
When asked if the ALP would support a debt levy he said “broken promises shouldn’t be rewarded”.
“Tony Abbott made himself, before the last election, the saint of not breaking promises. His halo has well and truly slipped it would appear since becoming Prime Minister.”
Labor frontbencher Penny Wong raised concerns about the private sector’s ability to fill the void left by the axings.
She noted Australian Hearing delivered services to remote indigenous communities.
“I don’t know how the private sector are going to be capable of replicating that service,” Senator Wong told ABC radio.
– with AAP