Professionals Australia is deeply concerned by revelations on the number of contractors being used in place of the Defence workforce.
The Canberra Times reported that:
“Almost 32,000 non-public service employees were given government security clearances by the Defence department in the past two years, pointing to an explosion of high-level outsourced work at the department… Defence said it sponsored 16,272 security clearances for non-APS staff in 2016-17, and 15,653 clearances in 2017-18. In the last financial year the department’s average staffing level was 17,500, which was cut by 1127 jobs in the most recent budget.”
Professionals Australia’s ACT Director Dale Beasley says, “These numbers are alarming, but not unexpected. We have been speaking out on this for some time. Defence also repeatedly report that they have difficulty in tracking the number of employees they have in physical sciences and engineering, where they’re located, and how many they’re losing. It’s a mess.”
“We shouldn’t diminish the importance of defence industry in achieving the Defence mission, that close collaboration with contractors in defence industry who are global leaders in their fields is in fact vital.
However, the right balance must be struck to ensure that Australia retains its own expertise in Defence, particularly in defence science and defence engineering; this is vital for national security. And a situation where contractors outnumber direct employees (as is now the case) is grossly out of balance.”
“The government’s staffing cap is the issue here. Departments are being forced to reduce their number of employees. In situations where technical skills are required but the direct employed staff with those skills are lost, Defence is turning to the private sector to back fill them.”
“STEM professionals in Defence are under increased pressure to deliver, while across the country staffing numbers are cut, funding is slashed and scientific, engineering and technical advice is ignored.
We should have learnt from the numerous lessons from the past – the early decommissioning of HMAS Kanimbla and Manoora (at a cost of $500m) was caused by a hollowing out of Defence STEM skills. Defence is creating the right circumstances for similar disasters thanks to this governments staffing cap.”
Professionals Australia are calling on the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Defence Industry, and leadership of the Department of Defence to support Defence STEM professionals by:
- Removing or changing the Australian government bargaining policy so we can engage in genuine bargaining with real decision makers on APS pay and conditions.
- Ensuring that professionally qualified and registered engineering and scientific staff are again included in all major decisions.
- Ensure scientific, engineering and technical tasks are supported by a professionally qualified and capable APS STEM workforce.
Media contact Dale Beasley: 0433 847 325