24 May 2024

Taylor, Dutton in step over APS numbers but not migration

| Chris Johnson
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Peter Dutton and Angus Taylor 1 May 2023

Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor likes the idea of cutting APS and net migration numbers. Photo: Facebook.

Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor won’t rule out a future Coalition government slashing public service job numbers and relocating more government agencies to regional Australia.

Mr Taylor took to the National Press Club on Wednesday (22 May) to criticise Labor’s Federal Budget and defend the Opposition’s alternative positions.

But while he was able to dodge questions about the public service with a smile, he had more trouble explaining why his aspirational migration numbers didn’t align with his boss’s.

Mr Taylor spruiked Coalition policy intentions such as making the instant asset write-off for small business permanent; banning sports gambling ads during live sports telecasts; allowing some people qualified early access to superannuation to help home ownership; and outlawing the use of the internet to glorify crime.

He said the government had produced a budget with no “guard rails’ and the Coalition would restore the rules that put a “speed limit” on taxing and spending.

“[Labor] has abandoned the rules that supported every good budget since Peter Costello established the Charter of Budget Honesty,” Mr Taylor said.

READ ALSO Federal Budget: APS a Budget big winner with 9000 contractors to become public servants

But when asked about the size of the Australian Public Service (APS) and whether the Coalition would reintroduce a staffing cap, the Shadow Treasurer only teased with his response.

Labor removed the Average Staffing Level (ASL) cap in 2022 after being elected. But ASLs remain a tool for internal budgeting purposes.

Nor would Mr Taylor definitively answer whether he intended to further decentralise the APS, despite the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s (APVMA) forced relocation from Canberra to Armidale hardly being a successful one.

The APVMA was pushed out of the capital to the NSW regional city following a 2016 order from former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.

The agency became scandal ridden, with a recent review describing a loss of fundamentals and an embedded culture of toxicity.

The forced relocation resulted in a high turnover of staff, including among the agency’s management ranks.

But Mr Taylor wasn’t biting when asked about slashing APS jobs or decentralising the service.

“All good questions, and be patient,” he said.

“More detail on those numbers will be forthcoming.

“The important point here is this – we do not think that now is the time to add 36,000 Commonwealth public servants…

“Ultimately, it is households and businesses that pay the taxes that pay for those public servants.”

In his budget reply speech to parliament last week, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton attacked the government’s spending on public servants, saying it provided for 36,000 new public sector jobs over the forward estimates.

Mr Dutton wants defence spending to be the priority.

“The government has announced an additional 36,000 public servants in this budget, costing Australian taxpayers $24 billion over four years,” the Opposition Leader said.

“The Coalition sees areas like Defence as much more of a priority than office staff in Canberra given the precarious times in which we live and threats in our region.

“We will reprioritise Canberra-centric funding and make an additional investment in Defence to rapidly enhance the capability of our men and women in uniform.

“We’re working with leaders in defence industry to identify projects and investments that can be made in Australia to keep us safe in an uncertain world.”

READ ALSO Federal Budget: Opposition Leader targets ‘Canberra-centric funding’ in Budget reply

But while the Opposition Leader and his Shadow Treasurer are on the same page regarding the public service, they have delivered mixed messages over net migration rates.

Mr Taylor said in his press club address the Coalition wanted a 25 per cent cut over a term of government, whereas Mr Dutton’s speech flagged a 38 per cent cut.

When repeatedly asked to clear up the confusion, Mr Taylor declined to elaborate, simply saying there was no confusion.

“At the end of the day, we think we can free up 100,000 homes for Australians and it is not hard to work out the calculations that I have to support that,” he said.

Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers ridiculed the Shadow Treasurer’s speech and Q&A.

“Angus Taylor’s speech at the National Press Club was an absolute shambles,” Dr Chalmers said.

“The centrepiece of Peter Dutton’s budget reply is now a smoking ruin because of Angus Taylor’s speech.

“The only thing that Peter Dutton wanted you to know in his budget reply was about migration, and Angus Taylor has completely and utterly stuffed up today in Canberra.

“Peter Dutton lowered the bar and Angus Taylor has tripped over it.”

Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.

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