The ASU this week lodged a submission expressing our serious concerns with the Federal Government's "Commission of Audit". The Audit has been set up to review services, timing and cost value to government, along with the Federal Government's relationship with state and local government.
The ASU has a range of concerns around funding to local government, where the Commonwealth provides on average 20% of local government funds in the form of grants etc. On occasion, some councils can receive up to 80% of funding via Commonwealth grants. Changes to these arrangements could have serious impacts on delivery of services to local communities.
The ASU is not only concerned about funding to local government but Federal Government funding to all sections of society and how that funding is delivered, including how employment in regional centres, towns and small communities will be affected by any changes to funding models.
There is also a serious risk that a privatisation agenda may arise from the Commission's findings, particularly given the one-sided representation of the business lobby on the Commission.
"We are extremely concerned that the Government has engaged three external non-government advisers, excluding representatives from unions or community organisations, to provide advice to the Government after only a short period of public consultation," said Greg McLean, ASU Assistant National Secretary with responsibility for our public services coverage.
"We believe this process would have been more transparent and accountable with the establishment of a Parliamentary committee or, at the very least, the Commission of Audit to include members of Parliament. For such an exercise that could result in significant changes to Federal Government funding across the board, the inclusion of Commission members representative of a broader segment of the Australian community should have occurred."
The ASU is a strong proponent of keeping public services in public hands because that is the best way to deliver quality public services. Experience has shown that privatisation leads to the undermining of services, including through the loss of accountability, and threatens local communities, especially through reduction in local employment opportunities.
"Additionally, the recently announced cuts to Federal Government funding, at time when the OECD is saying we should not cut spending because our economy is in transition and fragile, is alarming," said Greg McLean.
The OECD "Australia - Economic forecast summary (November 2013)" can be found here: http://www.oecd.org/economy/australiaeconomicforecastsummary.htm
The ASU National Executive, which met last week, discussed the Commission of Audit. National Executive noted the ASU would be lodging a submission for the Audit and also called for the Opposition and other unions to support the ASU position. The following resolution was passed:
ASU National Executive holds great concern for the Federal Government's use of an external non-Government Commission of Audit, with limited time to report, "to review the role and scope of Government, as well as ensuring taxpayers' money is spent wisely and in an efficient manner".
ASU further expresses concern that the Committee may well be used by the Federal Government to set an agenda and in turn use such legitimacy to bringing a political agenda to the provision of Government services and Government funding through reduced funding and privatisation.
ASU National Executive believes such a process is not in the national interest and should not be used as a tool to reduce Government funding and push a privatisation agenda at any level of government (eg. state, national or local).
ASU will be lodging a submission with the Committee to express these concerns.
ASU further calls upon the ALP and all unions to oppose privatisation and any cuts to public services.
The ASU will monitor the results of the Commission of Audit.