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Cuts to public service jobs are both unfair and misguided

Police Commissioner, Karl O'Callaghan has dropped a pre-budget prophecy that he expects hundreds of jobs will need to be cut from the WA Police Service, a quarter of which is made up of public servants.

"Given that [WA Police] has 75 per cent of its income tied up with wages, one of the only ways of meeting future budgets will be to reduce the number of employees," Commissioner O'Callaghan told ABC News.

The Commissioner pointed out that about a quarter of the police workforce are public servants, and that any cuts to the workforce would result in a reduction in policing services.

Toni Walkington spoke to ABC News this afternoon about the impact on services, pointing out that the public service has already paid the price to the tune of 10,000 jobs over the past decade. 

"Cuts to public service jobs are both unfair and misguided," Toni told ABC News.

"Unfair because the public service has been doing it tough for the past ten years, with more than ten thousand jobs gone from the public service.

"Misguided because what this means is that police officers will have to undertake more administrative tasks and will be doing less of what they are actually paid to do. It doesn't make sense."

Members have told us that it is commonplace for sworn Officers to undertake administrative duties instead of being out in the community performing regular policing duties.

In some instances Officers being paid the equivalent of a PSGOGA Level 6 are being pulled from the streets to do Level 2 administrative work, because those positions were abolished under the Barnett government. 

The following is the full interview with Francis Bell.


Francis: Why do you think public servants are the ones who are targeted first when it comes to cuts to the workforce?

Toni: I think they are seen as an easy target because the work they do is not always in uniform, the work they do is not always high profile. The work they do is often about prevention, about the long term solutions to problems in society. The work our members do is often unseen, but it certainly tough  difficult work. It is because the work they do is not seen directly by people, those jobs are seen as an easy target by politicians. 

The police minister said today that every portfolio will have to endure some painful cuts that are coming in the budget, but it will be her best endeavour not to affect front line services with WA Police, do you think that is possible?

Toni: It depends on what they mean by front line services, it's such a vague term that it is next to useless. What we say is they should be investing in prevention. That is the way that we will get less children in state care, we will see less people in prison, there will be less offending and therefore we will need less police. In the end, it is about ensuring that you invest in things that are going to work, that doesn’t mean cutting public services. It just doesn’t make sense, we need to invest in those services. 

The commissioner says it will be up to his successor Chris Dawson to make the decision about where cuts are made, when the budget is handed down will you be making any particular representations to him about quarantining public servants in WA police?

Toni: We have been pleading with him, amongst many others, that they don’t cut services. They cannot cut public servant’s jobs. It would be highly unfair after consistently cutting jobs in the public service for the past ten years. It is misguided and unfair. 

What does it mean for the public if those jobs are cut?  

Toni: Clearly, the public get less services; they will have to wait longer, there will be larger queues, things don’t get done, things fall through the cracks, there are gaps and that is what will happen.

And if more police are taken from the front line into administrative roles, do you see the potential to affect public safety? 

Toni: Well certainly, that is what police often express concern about, that they need to be doing the job they are actually employed to do, that they are trained to do, and that they are paid to do. It doesn’t make sense to then take the work from public servants and give that to police officers. 

What about the argument from the government that finances are so dire that they are being forced to make these tough decisions?

Toni: Certainly, the finances are not in good shape in Western Australia, however there are indications that this is beginning to change. They need to look at revenue and have a really long look at what our revenue options are and address that. There are many options to consider.  


See the full story on ABC News tonight from 7pm and read the article on Karl O'Callaghan's announcement here.


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