8 November 2013
Transcript - #7, 2013

Interview with David Lipson, On the hour – 11am, Sky News

SUBJECTS: reduction of advisory bodies, CSIRO, closure of Qantas facility in Avalon

DAVID LIPSON:

Senator Sinodinos thanks for your time. What is the justification for the Government axing these 21 advisory bodies?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

Thanks David. The justification for what we're doing today is it's a down payment on getting the right size of Government, creating more efficient Government. Every new Government that comes in reserves the right to reprioritize the use of government resources. Some of these bodies have been around since 1989 or 1990, their functions will be absorbed, either into the core functions of Departments, or dealt with in other ways. But the point is that a new Government has to have the capacity to look at what it's inherited and figure out how do these particular bodies fit with our priorities? Can the work be done better? Are there better ways to access expert advice? Don't forget that we're also setting up a network of ministerial advisory councils to assist us with our core promises around reducing red tape and green tape. We want to make that the core element of our productivity plan. So this is not a set against getting independent expert advice, but we are actually broadening out the advice that we get so that in areas like red tape and deregulation we're talking directly to the people, the stakeholders in business, not-for profits and the community affected by government measures.

DAVID LIPSON:

These positions are funded by the Government and the Coalition said that it would only make cuts to the public service through natural attrition. Where is the natural attrition in axing these bodies?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

As I mentioned before, in many cases their functions will be absorbed into the ongoing work of Departments. The departmental work will be reprioritised to reflect areas where we believe more focus needs to be given on particular issues, as opposed to others. The strategy…

DAVID LIPSON:

But jobs aren't going there?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

David the strategy around reducing public service jobs through natural attrition, that's a separate policy. What jobs will go as a result of the announcement we've made in the last couple of days around these bodies is yet to be determined. Because as I mentioned before, there is also a question of reprioritisation of the activity of Departments.

DAVID LIPSON:

And are you confident that the Departments will be able to provide advice as good as the advice provided by these bodies?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

Let me give you an example. One body that's going has to do with the housing supply and affordability. We've already moved to re-establish with teeth the Building Construction Commissioner to try and get a better handle on building and construction costs, by reducing the capacity of employers and unions to engage in activity, which increases construction costs. So we're already trying to do things to bring about the housing supply and affordability that bodies like this council have been providing research reports on. So it's a matter of re-prioritisation in a context where resources, as you say David, will be more scarce and we have to make those decisions and we won't shy away from them. The very same people who say: "oh aren't you having a bit of a slow start? Where is the action?" Well the action behind the scenes has been in evaluating every item of government expenditure, both initially through the Government and then through the Commission of Audit. And coming up with a new set of priorities, and more efficient ways of delivering government services.

DAVID LIPSON:

Can you confirm reports today that up to a quarter CSIRO scientists and support staff will lose their jobs?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

I don't believe it's a quarter, it's less than that. The advice I have received has been that we're talking about 500 or 600 non-ongoing positions. The numbers could be a bit fluid, because we're talking about non-permanent positions. But again, this is a situation where the CSIRO will be speaking to people in the organisation about how any reductions are achieved and will ensure that it's not compromising its core responsibilities and flagship programs.

DAVID LIPSON:

How can it not be compromising their programs if 500 or 600 scientists and support staff go, that's still a sizable number.

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

As I said these are non-ongoing and these are judgements that have to be made by the management. These are judgements that have to be made across the whole realm of government activity David and they do involve choices about the costs and benefits of doing various things and re-prioritizing how you use resources and the new Government has to have capacity to do that.

DAVID LIPSON:

And can I just ask one more, your thoughts on the Qantas facility at Avalon shutting down next year. Will there be any consideration of government support for the workers affected?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

While this is a private decision, it has not been affected by government policy per say, the normal mechanisms of government to help the workers involved to adjust to those circumstances will be made available. We have a strategy, through investment in infrastructure in Victoria, through building up what we're doing around Geelong and so forth with the relocation or the establishment there of the headquarters for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, where we are keen to make sure that we can take jobs to where the workers are. So we will work with the local community, we'll work with the State Government to do that.

DAVID LIPSON:

Arthur Sinodinos thanks so much for your time.

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

Thanks David.