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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1040..

MR PRATT (continuing):

When I was first made aware or first realised what the rate of growth was of the ACT public service, I was somewhat alarmed.

Chief Minister, when did you first become "somewhat alarmed"that the ACT public service had grown like Topsy? Why, as the head of the ACT government, did you take your hands off the wheel in not being aware of the continuing growth in the number of public servants, particularly in some departments? Why don't you keep aware of broad financial data such as the total spending in the general government sector of employees to provide you with some insight into trends in the ACT public service?

MR STANHOPE: I thank the member for the question. Of course I should do everything, I should know everything and I should read every report. Indeed, I probably should manage every department—I am sure that there are others who can do so. It is a nonsensical question and it is a nonsensical assertion. It is an absolute nonsense. It is the sort of question that is dragged up in desperation from time to time—questions such as: "why didn't you read page 572 of this thousand-page report; why didn't you, as Chief Minister, accept the responsibility for ensuring that you understood precisely what the recruitment patterns in the department of health or in Urban Services were over the last two years; and how come you didn't know that the work force in the department of education had increased by 72 in the last quarter?"It is just patently stupid and absurd to suggest that I, as Chief Minister, should for a second be expected to understand and read and be advised about every recruitment action taken at any stage by any agency across the entire ACT public service.

Having said that, I was and remain surprised by some of the level of growth within the ACT public service over the last four years—actually over the last three years because it has not grown at all in the last year. Indeed, the ACT public service has reduced in size over the last 10 months to the order of, I think, somewhere around 430, essentially through attrition with some redundancies. As I have indicated, I anticipate and expect that that rate of slowing in the growth of the ACT public service will continue over the next year. The public service has reduced by 430 since 1 July last year. Of that 430 I think 115 employees have accepted redundancies. I assume that resignations or promotions would be the basis on which those other 300 or so jobs have not been filled.

So three-quarters of the reduction in the size of the public service in the last year has been as a result of attrition and one-quarter or thereabouts as a result of redundancies that have been offered. This is a redundancy rate that is somewhat less than was anticipated in last year's budget, and I think that is significant. I have to say it is very pleasing that the rate or level of redundancies anticipated or budgeted for, or for which allocation was made in the last budget, has not been realised; that a significant proportion of reduction is a direct result of attrition. I expect that to be the essential structure or nature of change that I anticipate will occur over the next year and that the ACT public service will continue to reduce at roughly that same rate for the next year or so. I then anticipate that it will again, of course, flatten. Hopefully we will reach a stage where we will remain quite constant or perhaps continue to grow again as we adjust very much to the economic cycle and—I had begun to touch on this—as we adjust to structural change which the territory needs to face up to.

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