FOR all the controversy about state public service cutbacks, our public service remains massive and much too expensive.
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Sean Ford

With 945 full-time equivalent jobs gone between June 2011 and June 2012, the “total general government sector” still employed 24,507 FTEs.

That is more than the entire population of Central Coast and a touch less than the entire population of Devonport.

It does not count employees of various government business enterprises.

It also does not count federal public servants based in Tasmania, nor does it count the massive local government sector.

The breakdown was:

Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts, 423 FTEs;

Education, 8725;

Health and Human Services, 9298;

Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, 472;

Justice, 1044;

Ministerial and parliamentary support, 141;

Police and Emergency Management, 1540;

Premier and Cabinet, 294;

Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, 1248;

Tasmania Fire Service, 443;

Tasmanian Skills Institute, 289;

Treasury and Finance, 283;

Parliamentary and statutory offices, 309.

For a state with slightly more than 500,000 people, the size of the service is grossly excessive.

At a packed budget media conference a few years back, at least a couple of journos were gobsmacked when then-treasurer Michael Aird acknowledged there were no measures in place to gauge public service productivity.

The state service had been growing like Topsy for years and nobody had even bothered to measure its effectiveness.

More recently, an independent review has been done covering state service governance, structural arrangements and appeal and review mechanisms relating to employment.

According to the State Treasury, options were identified for alternative governance models “that adhere to good governance principles”, including efficiency and effectiveness, accountability, fairness and merit.

Treasury says the report had gone to “key stakeholders” for comment.

“Subject to feedback and government endorsement, implementation is expected to occur in 2013…”.

Let’s hope it’s a robust report and that they don’t manage to water it down and “Sir Humphrey” it.

A lean, mean state service with not a dollar wasted, focusing only on things that matter, should be the goal.

The glaring political weakness in what has happened so far with state service cutbacks is the cuts to frontline staff, particularly in health and police.

Health, particularly, must get more efficient.

We see frontline police decreasing and officers still sitting in the courts in Burnie and Launceston.

This reform process should be as much about what people do as about anything else.

Get the functions and the efficiencies right and savings will be easy and relatively painless.

For all the controversy about cutbacks, cutbacks are needed.

And the process needs to continue.

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