Flat White

November 11, 2021: the day the great war against the private sector was won

12 November 2021

4:00 AM

12 November 2021

4:00 AM

Without the slightest hint of irony, the Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday released the latest Employment and Earnings, Public Sector data for Australia. On the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Australians learned about how many people work for our bureaucratic leviathan. 

The data showed the war was over.  The Australian private sector has clearly been defeated.  The war is over and government has, as in the old joke about auditors, come in and bayoneted the wounded. For all the economic damage of Covid, it is party, party, party in the public, public sector. 

To paraphrase the words of Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (Stalin to his friends), a single private sector destroyed job is a tragedy; a million destroyed jobs is a statistic. So, let’s go to the statistics. 

In the 12 months to end June 2021, the number of public sector employees across the three levels of Australian (Commonwealth, State and Local) government increased by 3% to 2.1 million.

Yes. In a country where the working age population is 12.5 million, 2.1 million people work for the government. One in six people.  

Let’s put that in context:

It’s four times the population of Tasmania. 

Nine times the population of the Northern Territory. 

Five times the population of the ACT.  

One and a half times the population of Adelaide.  

More than the population of Perth.    

But as bad as this sounds, it’s really worse.  Much, much worse. 

These numbers don’t include overseas posted diplomats or those in the military.  It does not include “off-balance sheet” employees such as those working for government business enterprises such as the NBN, Australia Post or the Clean Energy Finance Corporation or various state government (still) owned energy companies.

Excluded also are ABC and SBS staff and those whose jobs only exist because of government such as lobbyists and the compliance industrial complex. For the cherry top, it does not include those in the multi-billion-dollar consulting industry that feeds off the taxpayers.  That includes you, KPMG. 

There is of course no aggregate data on such “jobs” people, but Australians should not be surprised if one in three or four adult Australians work for or because of Government.   

Give the collective near two trillion dollars of combined Commonwealth and State government debt, it is clear that our governments have outgrown the private sector and have decided to confiscate from the future, from our children, grandchildren and beyond.  A whole new meaning to intergenerational equity. 

Yet notwithstanding the expanding rings of government-related employment, the collective cash wages and salaries increased for these 2.1 million public servants by 5% to $183 billion. Billion with a B. 

And notably also, these numbers don’t include post 1 July 2021 pay rises or new roles created. Nor does this include all the additional on-costs associated such as rent, insurance, Cartier watches or chartered planes to Glasgow or Paris.   

But Victorians should fret not. Its public sector had a great pandemic.  

Victorian public sector total wages and salaries increased by 9% reflecting both increased costs and an extra 19,000 public servants. This compared very well with a national (State and Territory) wages and salaries increase of 5%. 

Did the Victorian economy grow by 9%? No. Did the Victorian population grow by 9%? No. But the cost of the Victorian public sector grew that much.  So many achievements for the Andrews government to be proud of in addition to the world’s longest citizen lockdown (or was that lock up?). 

In another positive sign for the prospects for Australia’s private sector, it is reported that business, accounting and finance graduates are flooding to work for the public sector. Sort of ironic that there are fewer business or finance jobs in business or finance any more. 

Australians are like slow boiling frogs. We are on the road to Venezuela without noticing. Or is that Venez-stralia. 

Stephen Spartacus regularly writes at Sparty’s Cast.

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