Cancerous growth of the bureaucracy in Victoria

ALMOST one in 10 Victorians works for the state because of unprecedented growth in the public sector under the Brumby Government. The explosion in staff numbers means 40c in every $1 spent by the Government goes on paying staff. The public sector workforce has jumped by almost 40,000 in the past five years but neither side of politics plans to cut jobs.

Almost 250,000 people are employed in the Victorian public sector, according to the State Services Authority. This is dramatically higher than when [conservative] Jeff Kennett lost office in 1999, a Herald Sun analysis shows. The 250,000 figure includes full-time, part-time and contract employees.

Government figures show there are more than 50,000 extra full-time public sector workers now than there were under Mr Kennett. The huge increase in staff comes at a great cost to the Budget - nearly $9 billion higher than in the Kennett era. Wages and salaries are forecast to rise to more than $18 billion in 2013-14.

Drawing from Budget papers, annual reports and departmental statements, the Herald Sun's analysis points to public sector jobs as the sleeping issue of the election campaign.

Treasurer John Lenders said the largest increase in employees was in the public health sector. Other government payroll growth areas include teachers, police, and ambulance and fire services staff.

"Ted Baillieu will have to embark on Kennett-style job cuts to pay for his $11 billion worth of uncosted election promises," Mr Lenders said.

But Opposition scrutiny of government spokesman David Davis said no jobs would go. "We see a critical role for public servants," he said.

The figures are made up of both the "inner" public service - comprising 10 departments and 20 authorities - and more than 1800 other public entities.

Despite the huge blowout in public sector jobs, the Coalition is acutely aware of the perils of announcing plans for job cuts, unwilling to be compared to the Kennett government. At the same time it has vowed to cut debt. The Budget forecast debt would almost double to more than $15 billion by 2013.

Adding further pressure to the bottom line, the state's unfunded superannuation liabilities are on the march again, climbing $1 billion to more than $21 billion by 2014.

This is the amount of taxpayers' money that would be required if the entire public sector workforce quit at once.

Both debt and unfunded super blew out under the Cain-Kirner governments and were hauled in by the Kennett government. But this was at great political cost, with the Kennett government losing the 1999 election in part because of the dramatic cuts to the public sector to deal with the $33 billion debt it inherited.


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