Public Sector Myths Dispelled


John Howard was responsible for increasing the number of public sector employees. Really?

Just before the 2007 election, Kevin Rudd referred to the growth in the number of people in the Australian public service during the latter years of the Howard government as “administrative bloating”. When a Labor politician is criticising someone as conservative as John Howard for spending too much on public services, you have to wonder whether the universe has turned on its head.

Kevin Rudd hasn’t been the only one to criticise the size and effectiveness of the public sector. The media and politicians on all sides have had a go at it, with varying degrees of rhetoric and inflammatory comments. In 2008 Wilson Tuckey, Liberal member for O’Connor, said that communism and socialism have a new elite, “they are called the public service.”

Yet people still want the government to build and maintain infrastructure, supply welfare where it’s needed, look after our defence and provide transport, health and education.

James Whelan from the Centre for Policy Development recently completed a paper on the work of the sector: The State of the Australian Public Service, An Alternative Report. 

In this edition of BTalk we discuss the report, the work of the sector and attitudes towards it. There seems to be a dichotomy between what the press and politicians say and what the public thinks. In other words, public sector cutbacks are an easy political gain, until the services they provided disappear.

First published on CBS News

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