Latest freeze to hit ballooning public service
A HIRING ban across the entire Queensland public sector has been quietly introduced by the State Government as it attempts to prevent the coronavirus crisis morphing into a Budget disaster.
After radically driving up the state's wage bill by $7 billion in just five years, the Government has halted all new hiring to help plug the gap between its coronavirus costs and freefalling revenue.
It is understood the sweeping ban will affect every department and new appointments will only be made when they meet exceptional circumstances criteria and gain high-level approval.
The Labor Government has consistently rejected criticism over its wage bill rising by four times the rate of population growth, insisting it is essential to boost frontline services.
Treasurer Jackie Trad yesterday confirmed the hiring ban but staunchly ruled out public sector sackings.
"A range of Government spending areas, including recruitment, are being addressed as part of this work," a spokesman for Ms Trad said.
"Pausing business-as-usual public sector recruitment is required at this time.
"The Palaszczuk Government remains committed to the employment security of its workforce and unlike the LNP we will not sack workers for a fiscal outcome."
The Government has already gained parliament approval to spend an extra $4.8 billion on loans and support for individuals and industry affected by the pandemic while revenue is forecast to collapse by $4 billion.
The widening gap between spending and revenue will drive Queensland's debt bill towards $100 billion and likely cause a further credit downgrade.
An extra 4391 public servants were scheduled to be added to the Government's payroll in 2019-20 and 4000 a year for the next three years which, along with pay hikes, was forecast to add another $3.6 billion to employee costs.
However the Government has committed to stop pay hikes, saving $500 million, despite most public sector wage deals being done.
Respected Queensland economist Gene Tunny strongly backed the hiring ban.
"The fact is they are going to have very heavy cash needs in the next six months because of the money going out the door and the hit to revenue they have had, so they are really being prudent not putting on more people," he said.
However Mr Tunny said the State Budget would have been in better shape had the Government not been so spendthrift.
Originally published as Latest freeze to hit ballooning public service