A bureaucratic mix-up


Australian Financial Review

11th December 2006


In your article on the 9.6 per cent increase in public servants last year ("PM's agenda swells public service ranks", December 1), you quote me as suggesting the Prime Minister and Treasurer and Minister for Finance should issue proper figures and should apologise for misleading the people and should set about changing their policies. However, that comment to your reporter did not relate to public service numbers, which I had no reason to doubt.


Rather, it referred to the incorrect figures used by senior ministers to claim reductions in spending and taxation since 1995-96.


The correct picture, as published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, is shown in my article on "When will the leviathan fade away" in the latest issue of Policy published by the Centre for Independent Studies. In that article I point out that between1995-96 and 2004-05 discretionary spending (that is excluding interest on debt) increased from 23.3 per cent to 24.2 percent of GDP and taxation from 22.3 percent of GDP to 25.7 percent of GDP.


Of course, the increase in both the total and number of spending programs has required increased public servants to administer them. But the issue to be addressed is the programs, not the public servants per se.