One the one hand it waxes, if not lyrically then certainly loudly, on the need to create them and to keep unemployment low.
On the other, it unashamedly beats its collective hairy chest about the need to achieve small government by getting rid of public servants.
Here’s Abbott in full flight in a National Press Club Address on 31st January 2013: “By restoring the jobs growth of the Howard government, there’ll be two million more jobs over a decade.”
And a little further along, in the same speech, “The Coalition supports every Australian who’s working hard to get ahead.”
But in his budget reply speech on 16th May 2013, he announced with evident pride that 12,000 public service jobs would be cut by “natural attrition.”
Oh, right, natural attrition. Well, that’s okay then.
Or is it? What that really means is that 12,000 people will leave the public service for one reason or another, but the 12,000 people who might otherwise have replaced them will remain unemployed.
Evidently, public servants, and those who would like to be, aren’t among those Australians working hard to get ahead.
So how does the Coalition rationalize this dichotomy to itself? (You know it’s not going to try rationalizing it to us; it’s just hoping we won’t notice).
Well, it goes like this.
Because private enterprise is so efficient and does things so much quicker than the public sector, (actually not true, but that’s another story), then private sector jobs must be more important, and thus, by extension, the holders of those jobs must be more honorable and more worthy of government support, whereas those lazy, slow public servants… oh dear, of dear.
So let’s look at a specific or two; say a little known federal government department, The Australian Organ and Tissue Authority
According to its Accountability and Reporting Performance update of June 2013 organ donation outcomes are up 33% over the same period in the previous year, and organs recipients are up 22%. The number of organs transplanted is up by 20% on the previous year.
Clearly defined, objective, performance measures showing significantly improving outcomes; looks disturbingly like we’ve got a bunch of out of control public servants actually saving lives.
Obviously begging to be naturally attritionized.
Compare their efforts with those of a corporate accountant who sole raison d’etre is to set up front companies in the Bahamas so the corporation can avoid paying unnecessary taxes.
Being a private sector position, it meets the Coalition’s criteria for admiration, respect and preservation.
And if another few hundred such jobs were to be created, the government would pat itself on the back and say, “Well done us.”
By the way, did you know that – hardly surprisingly – in countries across the world, there is an exact inverse correlation between the quality of federal and state government regulatory oversight and the incidence of community illness due to poor food quality?
Gotta love that small government!
Now, while Tony Abbott demonstrably handles the truth, er, carelessly, he’s not stupid. Well, not completely. He’s perfectly aware of the contradiction.
Or at least, the people who give him his riding instructions are.
But Tony and his lords and masters are betting that we’re all too distracted or too indifferent to care.
Personally, I think he, and they, are wrong.
Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice…