21 July 2021

Melissa Coade, reporting for the public service industry magazine, The Mandarin: “On Tuesday CPSU national president Alistair Waters told a senate inquiry into the current capability of the APS that decisions made by Services Australia to silence concerns raised by public servants about the bungled robodebt scheme, and replace them with labor hire staff to do the work, saw the automated debt-collecting program executed in spite of warnings from experienced bureaucrats. ‘Of the almost 1,600 labour hire workers engaged in Services Australia at the end of April, around 800 work in the payments and integrity group, raising debts,’ Waters told the senate committee. ‘This labour hire workforce was introduced when robodebt was being implemented. Permanent staff who then worked in the robodebt area objected to the lawfulness of the program and were moved to other duties. An insecure workforce of about 800 labour hire employees were then brought in by Services Australia to implement robodebt.’ In June this year the Federal Court approved a $1.8 billion settlement for hundreds of thousands of Centrelink recipients who were wrongfully issued with debt notices. Justice Bernard Murphy outlined in a scathing decision against the Commonwealth that it ‘should have been obvious’ to public servants and ministers running the scheme that the process for determining debts was flawed.” It’s not obvious to people who have no institutional knowledge or understanding. Content-free managers were the first wave of neoliberal attack on public service. Content-free (and job security-free) employees are the next wave.