I guess the irony would not be lost on anyone of 2000 jobs to be cut at Centrelink (the social security office). Images of people walking from behind the counter to stand in a queue in front of it come to mind. But in actuality, with a booming economy, it should be a positive sign if Centrelink’s activities are contracting.
But the broader issues is that the government faces big challenges in its attempt to reduce public service costs. In that respect, some policies enacted by the previous government stand out as sore thumbs. I speak, of course, of the baby bonus. That payment already costs around $1 billion per year and in July is set to add several hundred million more to the bill as it jumps to $5,000. And for what? At its best, the baby bonus was just a vote buying exercise and a failed one at that. At its worst, it is an attempt to increase the population; something that is misplaced because there is a cheaper alternative — immigration. (On this point, I note that the IPA’s Chris Berg is in agreement).
The Rudd government has, thusfar, been silent on the issue of the baby bonus. Prior to the election, they were set on keeping it but it never was a core promise for them. I must admit that I can’t for the life of me imagine a Labor government slashing public sector jobs while at the same time increasing the baby bonus. Leave aside the obvious disruption that is going to occur in maternity hospitals in the last week of June and first week of July, the increment to the baby bonus is unjustified. My hope is that it will be frozen in the May budget.
But in reality, we need to be rid of it. The review of changes to maternity and paternity leave will provide an obvious opportunity. Let’s hope the government takes advantage of it.