How many public servants can you fit in a square kilometre? The answer, it seems is: more than you think.
The government is turning the screws on bureaucrats, and the first thing to go is elbow room. To save money, the amount of office space per worker is to drop from 16 square metres to 14 square metres. The move, politely dubbed “revising down the occupational density target”, will save $63.8 million over four years — but only applies to new leases and major fit-outs.
There’s more bad budget-day news for mandarins. Just over $148 million will be saved over four years through “operational efficiencies” across the Australian Public Service — largely job cuts — but office photocopy kids can breathe easy. Senior heads will be the first on the chopping block as cuts target executive level (EL) 1 and 2, and senior executive services (SES).
And in a move likely to enrage some Canberra mandarins, they’ll have to pay to park at work. Most public servants in the wider Parliament House area south of the lake enjoy free parking, seen as a perk to working in a dull area with a paucity of cafes. Not any more: the budget introduces “paid parking on national land in the suburbs of Parkes, Barton, Russell and Acton (ACT)” (this includes areas around Defence HQ). The scheme starts on July 1 next year, and is slated to earn $73.2 million in its first three years.
Treasurer Wayne Swan is billing the parking fees as a move to alleviate congestion and allow visitors to more easily park near the cultural facilities that dot the area; the chance to raise some extra dollars might be closer to home. Pay parking machines will be installed.
Governance expert Stephen Bartos told Crikey the budget austerity “continues the trend of shaving away at the growth of the public service”. He says it was the second straight budget to do this, and the cuts will hit “across the board” — although the well-positioned Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has garnered an extra $13.8 million over four years, while other departments have to rein in their spending.
One dim but nevertheless silver lining on a glum budget for the APS is that $100,000 will be spent part-funding a “Parliament House Walk” from Civic to Parliament House. So workers who want to avoid paying for parking can go on foot.