Queensland state budget
This Tuesday I attended the budget 'lock up' with several other union leaders and government stakeholders.
Here are some highlights from the budget:
- Record Health funding – because every Together member knows that our public health system needs more resources. More Queenslanders are relying on our public health services and keeping our family, friends and community healthy and helping through the tough times is what a great public health system does. Together members in Health do great work!
- 200 additional correctional officers and new infrastructure to stop over-crowding in our jails. Together members respect the risk that correctional officers take every day and while we often don't want to think about how many people are currently in our jails, it is not safe right now – not safe for the officers or the prison population. This was a good announcement.
- An end to hiding the contractors and the 'staffing cap' Together members have been lobbying for three years to get rid of the arbitrary staffing cap that has seen Departmental executives hiding the need for more staff by outsourcing, labour hire and employing contractors. The Coaldrake Review has been accepted and now there is a new budget principle. This is a good thing.
But what else?
The biggest issue I have with the budget at the moment is the commentary. The demonization of public servants and the necessary, essential and relied upon work you do being criticised by the mainstream media.
Why is 'public servant' a dirty word?
000 comms room operators are needed now more than ever, if Education is going to build new schools it takes planners and facilities officers to make that happen, we need Workplace Health and Safety Inspectors when accidents happen and the policy officers to plan and make the policy we need. And with thousands of new teachers and nurses – who is going to pay those people? It’s payroll officers and HR staff who need to plug in every roster change and make sure everyone is where they need to be.
Your work matters. It is essential and necessary.
The bad news – we don't know it yet. I have requested a meeting with Treasury about the establishment of the "Service Priority Review Office." This is where the 'cuts' are going to be determined. Certainly we have some ideas about cutting expenditure by limiting contractors and consultants. If you have others please contact me. This is potentially a more positive outcome than a blunt ‘dividend’ or cut. I will report back when I know more.
No news on wages. There is nothing in the budget papers about an increase in wages or an interim wage rise for hard working public servants. As you know we have written to the government seeking an interim wage increase while our case for fair wages, equal pay and better conditions is heard by the independent umpire – the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission – later this year.
I will continue to update you when I know more about the budget impacts.