The Government has quietly awarded itself, the Opposition and minor parties an extra 44 staff at a cost of $34m over four years, partly reversing its decision on arriving in Government to cut back on advisers.

Based on the normal breakdown, the Government is likely to pick up 27 extra staff — more than enough to give each Cabinet Minister an extra staff member, with the Opposition getting another nine, and the Greens and Independents splitting the rest.

The dearth of staff and the pressure on advisers after the Government’s cutbacks on both sides has been a persistent problem on all sides; with some senior shadow Ministers operating with one full-time policy staff member. Family First senator Steve Fielding has also struggled with his legislative workload due to the lack of support staff.

Under-pressure Public Service agencies have also obtained some relief, with Foreign Affairs, tasked with implementing Kevin Rudd’s “middle power diplomacy” agenda, given an extra $200m over four years for extra national security staff and more engagement with India, Pakistan, Africa and Latin America.

The troubled Australian Bureau of Statistics will also get an extra $15m a year for more staff and some extra Census staff in 2011, as well as COAG-related funding. PM&C will also get more staff, more funding to support Kevin Rudd’s much-touted Community Cabinets and money for a National Security Advisor group to support Duncan Lewis. But PM&C and all its agencies will all have to cough up between $100-300,000 a year as well.

Peter Fray

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