Public sector staffing reductions in the states and territories

Parliament house flag post

Public sector staffing reductions in the states and territories

Posted 12/09/2012 by Nicholas Horne

Since 2011 the state and territory governments have introduced public sector staffing reductions as savings measures (some jurisdictions also had reduction programs in place prior to 2011). A summary of the reductions is provided below; ‘FTE’ is not a headcount but refers to full-time equivalent staffing levels.

For the Commonwealth Government, the 2012–13 Budget estimates a staffing reduction in the Australian Public Service of 3 074 FTE for 2012–13 to be achieved in the main by a combination of natural attrition and voluntary redundancies. In November 2011 the Government also increasedits efficiency dividend rate to 4.0 per cent for 2012–13 (up from a rate of 1.5 per cent per annum).

In 2011 and 2012 the Queensland, Victorian, New South Wales and Northern Territory Governments commissioned independent reviews of public sector finances, expenditure and management. The federal Leader of the Opposition has stated that a Coalition government will establish a commission of audit to review Commonwealth Government operations.

New South Wales

In its 2011–12 Budget the NSW Government introduced a voluntary redundancy program with a staffing reduction target of 5 000 positions over 2011–15, mainly in non-service delivery areas; further reductions through turnover and natural attrition were also envisaged. The 2012–13 Budget has introduced a whole-of-government labour expense cap with a target reduction in labour spending equating to 1.2 per cent per annum over 2012–16. The Government has not imposed a methodology on agencies for implementing the cap but has noted that implementing the cap exclusively through staffing reductions would equate to some 10 000 positions over four years. Teachers, police and nurses have been exempted from the labour expense cap.

The 2012–13 Budget also states that, as at April 2012, the voluntary redundancy program introduced in the 2011–12 Budget had resulted in 2 032 voluntary redundancies either in place or announced.

The 2011–12 Budget maintained the efficiency dividend rate set by the previous ALP Government (1.5 per cent per annum over 2011–13), and specified an additional efficiency dividend savings target of $150 million for 2014–15; the 2012–13 Budget extends the application of the efficiency dividend to 2015–16. The efficiency dividend was introduced in 2005–06.


In December 2011 the Victorian Government introduced a public service staffing reduction of some 3 600 non-service delivery positions over 2012–15 to be achieved through voluntary redundancies and the non-renewal of fixed term contracts. Staff in essential service delivery areas—for example teachers, police, nurses and childcare workers—were exempted from the reduction. The Government also stated that it would reduce its employment of contractors and consultants.

In March 2012 the Government establisheda Better Services Implementation Taskforce to oversee the implementation of reforms to the public service including the staffing reductions.

In its 2012–13 Budget the Government has introduced a further staffing reduction of some 600 positions resulting from savings to be made in individual program areas. In June 2012 the Government indicatedthat since December 2011 public service staffing had been reduced by 910 positions through attrition and non-renewal of contracts, and in September 2012 the Government stated that 2 600 voluntary redundancies had been applied for.

In its 2011–12 Budget the previous Qld ALP Government introduced a voluntary separation scheme for non-frontline public service positions estimated to reduce staffing by 3 500 positions over 2011–13; in January 2012 this target was increased to 4 500 positions.

In its 2012–13 Budget the LNP Government has introduced an overall staffing reduction target of 14 000 FTE for 2012–13, with 10 600 FTE to be shed through redundancies and the remainder through natural attrition and the cessation of temporary positions. The reduction target includes the previous voluntary separation scheme; individual reduction targets are specified for agencies.

Prior to the 2012–13 Budget the LNP Government had foreshadowed public service staffing reductions, with Premier Newman expressing the view that the Qld Government employed 20 000 more staff than it can fund and that tough decisions would be necessary. In July 2012 the Premier also noted public service reductions of around 4 400 FTE between April and July 2012; prior to the 2012–13 Budget staffing reductions were reported in the media across a number of agencies. In mid–2012 the LNP Government establisheda Public Sector Renewal Program to review agencies and identify savings within the public service.

In the 2011–12 Budget the former ALP Government increased its cross-agency efficiency dividend savings target by $162 million over 2013–15 (up from a base target of $338 million). The efficiency dividend (termed a ‘productivity dividend’) was introduced in 2008–09.

Western Australia

In 2011 the WA Government introduced a voluntary redundancy program with a staffing reduction target of 400 positions in 2011; previous voluntary redundancy programs had been announced in 2010 and 2009.

In its 2012–13 Budget the Government has introduced a ceiling on FTE staffing levels over 2012–14 to be set at 2011–12 levels with some exceptions for particular areas, together with limitations on FTE growth from 2014–15. The Budget also states that the previous voluntary redundancy programs have resulted in staffing reductions of 1 138 positions.

The 2012–13 Budget also continues the application of the Government’s efficiency dividend for 2012–13 at differential per annum rates depending on agency with cumulative annual increases over 2013–16. The efficiency dividend was introducedin 2008–09.

South Australia

In its 2011–12 and 2012–13 Budgets the SA Government introduced new staffing reductions of 1 400 FTE over 2012–16 (400 non-frontline FTE over 2012–14 in the 2011–12 Budgetand 1 000 FTE over 2013–16 in the 2012–13 Budget). The 1 000 FTE reduction specified in the 2012–13 Budget will be achieved by voluntary separations and natural attrition. Previously, staffing reductions of 1 762 FTE had been announced in the 2010–11 Budget and prior.

The 2012–13 Budget also increases the Government’s efficiency dividend rate to 1.0 per cent per annum over 2013–16 (up from a base rate of 0.25 per cent per annum). The efficiency dividend was introducedin the 2006–07 Budget.


In February 2011 the Tasmanian Government announced a public sector productivity strategy and savings program involving potential public sector staffing reductions of up to 2 300 FTE over 2011–15. In May 2011 the Government indicatedthat staffing reductions would be achieved by a combination of means including vacancy management, voluntary redundancies, and involuntary redundancies as a last resort; the 2011–12 Budgetrevised potential reductions to around 1 700 FTE.

In August 2012 the Government stated that staffing reductions of around 945 FTE had occurred over 2011–12 since the 2011–12 Budget. The 2012–13 Budgetdoes not specify any further staffing reductions.

The 2012–13 Budget also sets out additional savings targets for selected agencies over 2012–15 at differential per annum rates depending on agency.

Northern Territory

In its 2010–11 Budget the NT Government introduced a staffing cap on public sector staffing levels over 2010–12 (staffing reductions were not required). The 2012–13 Budget continuesthe staffing cap for 2012–13.

Following the August 2012 NT election Chief Minister Mills stated that there would be no public service job losses under the new CLP Government but flaggedpossible staffing reductions through natural attrition. The CLP Government has also imposed a freeze on public sector recruitment with the exception of approved positions and identified frontline positions.

The 2012–13 Budget also increases the Government’s efficiency dividend to 3.0 per cent for 2012–13 (up from a base rate of 1.0 per cent per annum). An efficiency dividend has been in place since at least 2007–08.

Australian Capital Territory

The 2012–13 ACT Government Budget specifies a public service staffing reduction target of approximately 180 FTE for 2012–13 to be achieved through natural attrition, reduced contractor expenditure and some voluntary redundancies.

An efficiency dividend at differential per annum rates according to agency appropriation levels was introducedin the 2009–10 Budget (for commencement in 2010) and was reapplied in the 2010–11 and 2011–12Budgets with cumulative annual rate increases over 2012–14. The 2012–13 Budget does not specify any increase in the efficiency dividend but does announce the establishment of an advisory group to assist the Government on public sector reform including savings measures.

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Indigenous Australians Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment Sport illicit drugs people trafficking taxation Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force higher education welfare policy United Nations Asia income management Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget health financing gambling school education forced labour aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA emissions trading Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Industrial Relations people smuggling dental health National Disability Insurance Scheme Australian Crime Commission slavery Senate election results Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service International Women's Day corruption Afghanistan Fair Work Act child protection debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure poker machines ALP New Zealand Newstart Parenting Payment 43rd Parliament political parties Census constitution High Court skilled migration voting Federal Court terrorist groups Higher Education Loan Program HECS youth paid parental leave Aviation environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers Special Rapporteur leadership United Kingdom UK Parliament Electoral reform politics banking firearms public policy violence against women domestic violence mental health China ADRV terrorism social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation governance public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing by-election European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas family assistance planning United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing money laundering Productivity asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Population Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity science research and development Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia accountability housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation expertise Senators and Members climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets health reform Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration health system Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries social citizenship human rights citizenship Defence High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery transparency corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly public health smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking federal election 2010 workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing Hung Parliament political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions Norway hospitals

Show all
Show less
Back to top