Protected public servants sending the state broke

IN this hazy COVID-19 funk that affects everything we do, private company boardrooms throughout the world are making heartbreaking decisions to cut their cloth, inevitably making a significant part of their workforce redundant.

It's either reform or bust. Pivot or perish. If people are not losing their job, they are probably taking a solid haircut on their salaries.

Yet in all the monetary maelstrom plaguing the private sector, there is a koala in our midst.

The public service is the koala of the Australia's post-Covid economic revival - a protected species when it comes to performance.

And there's no better example of a protected, spoilt, underperforming lot than the Queensland Public Service.

Outside of frontline workers, there is too much wastage in the public service, writes Peter Gleeson. Picture: iStock
Outside of frontline workers, there is too much wastage in the public service, writes Peter Gleeson. Picture: iStock


What is it with Labor Governments and their obsession with the public service?

They protect, nurture, encourage and foster a culture of mediocrity that in many cases results in a toxic workplace that rewards snitches and penalises enterprise.

In Queensland under the Palaszczuk Government, the public bureaucracy has become a hotbed of Leftist zealotry, which punishes freethinking and encourages silos.

Everything that private enterprise has been forced to do in recent years to keep up with a modern, changing world, the public bureaucracy does the opposite,

If Deb Frecklington becomes premier on October 31 this year, the first thing she should do is order a review into the wastage within the public service.

At the moment, there are about 250,000 public servants on the payroll. That's up about 50,000 since 2015 when Labor took power.

Obviously you'd need to keep the essential frontline people such as police, ambos, teachers and nurses.

If the government couldn't slash those numbers by a third, they're simply not trying.

That's why this so-called public sector "wage freeze'' needs to be called out for what it is. It's not a wage freeze. It's a wage deferral.


Queensland Public Service numbers have increased by about 50,000 since Annastacia Palaszczuk became Premier. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Queensland Public Service numbers have increased by about 50,000 since Annastacia Palaszczuk became Premier. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt


That means that public service employees will get a five per cent pay rise in 2022.

Their 2021 wages will be frozen as part of the decision to keep their salaries on hold. But their unions have negotiated an outcome where they will get a double whammy pay rise of two increases of 2.5 per cent in 2022.

It also means the generous defined benefit superannuation scheme won't be touched. That means any public servant employed before 2009 gets the benefit of surely the most generous super scheme in the world.

If you're a public servant on $100,000 a year, and you've served 40 years, you walk out with $1 million.

There's also the $1250 bonus which was paid to public servants. At a time when the premier seems keen to give it to NSW, Ms Palaszczuk would have been better off adopting the NSW model, where they will freeze wages for 12 months, saving $3 billion.

What NSW did was honour current EBA arrangements, meaning any deal struck before Covid 19 on pay rises would stick.

The freeze on salaries in NSW only applies to agreements that had not been struck. Seamless. Victoria and Queensland - run by Labor - has spent an extra $14.5 billion in the past five years, hiring an extra 100,000 public sector employees.

Let me tell you a story about why I believe the public sector in Queensland could be cut by a third and there'd be no discernible impact on service provision.

Cutting by a third the annual public sector bill in Queensland would reduce public sector wages from $26 billion a year to $17 billion.

Imagine what Queensland could do with a $9 billion a year in savings in the current economic climate.

A mate of mine - let's call him Cyrus (not his real name) - is a journalist who worked for years at a big regional paper.

Now Cyrus was a good operator, knew his stuff, but was never regarded as prolific in his output. In fact, colleagues called him the Rusty Rifle because he just wouldn't fire.

He now works for the Queensland public service.

"How's it going mate?,'' I asked him.

"You busy?.''

"Really good mate,'' he said.

"Very busy. I wrote three pieces of advice last week.''

I'm thinking these must be exhaustive and time-consuming pieces of advice, right?

"No - about 350 words each,'' he said.

"That was it?,'' I asked.

"Yes, that's a big week Gleeso. I normally would do one of those a week. We've got six in my department. I'm probably the one who does the most.''

Even though Cyrus was not prolific on his newspaper, he'd knock in three 350-word pieces in his sleep, over the course of one day - not five days.

That's one example. There are others. The bottom line is that former premier Campbell Newman was right. The public service needs to be trimmed. It's wastage is out of control.

These are workers protected by bully boy unions, who fund the campaign of Labor politicians, in return for more and more employees being put on the public sector payroll, netting them greater union fees.

It's a classic Ponzi scheme and we're the mugs paying their wages. And it's sending Queensland broke.

Originally published as Protected public servants sending the state broke