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Public service workers furious as treasurer spends big on consultants

The NSW government's spending on private consultants has been called into question. Photo: Facebook/PSANSW & Pixabay

By ALLISON HORE

Public service workers have hit out at the NSW Government for spending big on private consultants while cutting the wage increase of public sector employees. 

In November last year, NSW treasurer Dominic Perottet revealed a plan to replace stamp duty with an annual land tax on newly bought or sold properties. The Government claims the move could inject up to $11 billion over four years into the state’s struggling economy. 

In order to bring the new tax plan into action, last year the state government awarded a $5.5 million contract to consultancy firm KPMG to assist in its design. The six month contract began in September.

The move to hire external consultants has angered public sector workers who feel the spending is unnecessary and hypocritical, given the government’s decision to cut public sector wage increases last year. 

Stewart Little, general secretary of the Public Service Association, said the consultancy contract is costing taxpayers “up to $4000 a day”. Under the NSW Government’s procurement policy the lowest rate for an analyst is $1200 a day.

“Once again the NSW Government is only happy to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on consultants when the expertise already exists in NSW Treasury many times over,” Mr. Little said. 

Mr. Little said the policymakers in NSW are among the country’s “best and brightest”. He said he thinks hiring external consultants to assist in the design of the new tax policy, when such a deep talent pool exists within the public service, is not necessary.

“From those working around the clock in NSW Health, to the Service NSW and Treasury officials who’ve made sure people across the state get the support they need,” he said.

“The level of expertise isn’t easily matched, and they’re ready to do the work but instead vital functions of the government are being outsourced to consultants at exorbitant rates. The Treasurer needs to do the maths again, because this doesn’t add up.”

Painful wage increase cuts

In the last state budget public sector wage increases were cut from the usual 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent. This came after discussions of freezing public sector wage increases entirely. Damien Davis Frank, Assistant Secretary of the NSWNMA St Vincent’s Hospital Darlinghurst Branch, told City Hub the cut would be “painful” for frontline workers.

“It’s been quite painful to see… especially at the moment during the coronavirus pandemic where you see all your colleagues working so hard and dealing with not seeing family and friends and isolating from their loved ones,” he said.

But treasurer Perottet said he thought the slash to wage increases was “fair and reasonable.”

“Obviously, we want to make sure that we have a balanced wages policy in our state, we’re going through a pandemic, we have an unemployment rate currently at 7.2 per cent,” he said in a press conference last year.

“We want to keep as many people in work during this period of time and we think this decision strikes a fair balance.”

But Mr. Little thinks the treasurer has failed to deliver on his promise of boosting public sector employment. 

“When the NSW government froze the wages of public sector workers in 2020 they were told that everyone was tightening their belts. Treasurer Perrottet promised the government would go on a hiring spree – it seems he was only thinking of consultants.”

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