Professionals Australia’s response to the National Commission of Audit Report
Professionals Australia has called for the Government to ‘stop and think’ before it deskills its engineering and scientific capacity, when it responds to the National Commission of Audit Report in the May Budget.
Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton said, “This Report has placed the future of our country in the hands of accountants. They have recommended cuts that scientific and engineering professionals know won’t work, and that will see our country worse off in the long run.
“It makes no sense to cut engineers and scientists – they are the brains that can actually discover the breakthroughs and build the infrastructure that will fuel our future economy.
“In this area, the report is presenting the opposite of what we actually need. We need more in-house technical capacity in governments, not less. We need greater investment in scientific endeavour and R&D, not less.
“In our submission to the National Commission of Audit, we argued strongly that if the Government really wants to achieve its strong program of infrastructure and save billions in waste, it needs to build its technical capacity.
“Each year, governments in Australia waste $7 billion on infrastructure delivery through poor scoping, design and disputation – effectively adding an extra 20 per cent on to every project over $1 billion. With more engineers and technical capacity, governments would ameliorate this waste.
“Governments with in-house engineering and technical expertise save money, deliver projects on time and to specification. However governments without such expertise don’t know what they are buying, they quickly become uninformed purchasers.. They pay more, get tangled up in disputation and projects suffer crippling delays.
“We call on the government to build capacity and avoid the ‘penny wise, pound stupid’ trap, Mr Walton said.
National Commission of Audit Report – Areas relevant to members
The Report estimates that 15,000 fewer public servants would be required if all its recommendations were adopted. This would reduce Commonwealth public sector employment by five per cent. It is not clear whether this is in addition to the efficiency dividend and natural attrition, however commentators suggest that, if adopted, the range of cuts in the Report would see total public sector job losses higher.
The Report proposes to bring DMO back into Department of Defence, reduce its size and have it focus on contract management, rather than project management.
Professionals Australia believes the Commission’s ideas of taking Department of Defence jobs back to “1998 levels” would see 4000 jobs on the line in Canberra, with another 2000 in Melbourne and Adelaide at risk.
Mr Walton said that, “the plans would be a recipe for more technical problems with the nation’s military hardware, and more debacles like the Collins Class submarine saga”.
Professionals Australia would support a review of the Defence establishment but only if it was undertaken on a “first principles” basis.
“The Defence Minister would be irresponsible in supporting any of these recommendations prior to the first principles review,” he said.
“The Government should be going further and addressing the critical skills gaps that are already affecting project delivery and maintenance and have been identified in countless reports.”
Mr Walton called on members to extend Professionals Australia’s campaign for INTEGRITY in defence.
“We now need to continue to get as many people joining the call for Integrity before the Government makes a decision. It’s time for people to stand up.”
“Let’s get the petition out more broadly across all our work groups and locations and make sure everyone is signing up.
Visit the petition – Integrity at Defence
The Report recommends opening up the pharmacy sector to competition, including through the deregulation of ownership and location rules. Professional Pharmacists Australia said today, Don’t worry about the Commission of Audit, supermarkets are already here
Separate to this, the report specifically acknowledged the need to provide pharmacists with opportunities to provide a greater range of services to their customers.
Pharmacists members are concerned the proposed co payments will hurt the most vulnerable in our community and lead to a greater level of hospitalisation.
The Report sees the Commonwealth push more responsibility for infrastructure delivery onto the States. The Report is scant on detail, but it is clear that there would be gaps, problems, waste and the savings are not clear. Any such proposal would need to ensure state and local governments had the resources and capability to scope and manage the projects in the interest of tax payers.
Science and R&D
The Commission recommended that the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) should be considered for outsourcing, putting the future of about 2000 science, technical and support jobs in Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne and Edinburgh, north of Adelaide in doubt.
“The potential outsourcing of DSTO is crazy – you don’t outsource your national security research brains,” Mr Walton said.
“You are looking at more than 2000 engineers and scientists across those (DSTO) sites if they seriously outsource that work. The national security issues are mind boggling.
The report also recommends CSIRO be treated as a government department (currently it has legislative independence). This is a significant concern as it could lose its ability to tackle long-term, complex scientific work and rather have its activities ‘aligned’ to the (whims) of the government of the day.
The report also pushes for the abolition of the Co-operative Research Centres and sector specific grants.
“The Commission has made recommendations that a shift away from government funding in R&D. We can’t afford to let this happen – the safety and future of our country are at stake.
“Professionals Australia will be advocating against the recommendations in the National Commission of Audit Report in the lead-up to the May Budget. I encourage members to let us know what they want us to say and do on their behalf.
Tell us what you think
Members are encouraged to share their views and ideas on the National Commission of Audit Report. Post a comment, join our online discussion now or email firstname.lastname@example.org