Palaszczuk Government’s senior public servant hiring binge
ANNASTACIA Palaszczuk's government went on a hiring spree of the most senior public servants in her first term in power, with the highest paid roles growing three times as fast as the rest of the bureaucracy.
Queensland taxpayers are shelling out more than $3 billion a year on salaries for the most senior public servants in the state after the ranks of the highest paid bureaucrats grew by 30 per cent over the past three years.
Ms Palaszczuk's office defended the rapid growth at the top end, saying she was proud to be "rebuilding the public service" after cuts imposed by Campbell Newman.
The Government says many of the most highly paid extra staff are doctors and executives in frontline departments.
Public service workforce data reveals public service growth has been mainly at the top, with the state taking on an extra 4158 of the most highly paid staff in the past three years.
The number of people on Senior Officer and Senior Executive Service or above salaries rose from 13,797 in December 2014 to 17,955 in December last year - a 30 per cent increase.
The total public service workforce increased by just over 10 per cent during the same period - from 196,856 in December 2014 to 218,957 in December 2017.
The increase is far above the Government's stated aim of increasing public servant numbers in line with population growth in coming years, expected to be about 1.7 per cent a year.
Senior officer salaries start at $147,437 a year while SES salaries range from $162,474 to $320,047 and chief executives are paid between $467,002 and $712,596. The average pay of SES and chief executives is currently $209,000 a year.
This suggests taxpayers are paying more than $3 billion a year on the most senior public servants with at least $700 million of that going to new staff positions created in the past three years.
The total Queensland public service wage bill is about $27.7 billion, which is just over $4 billion more than at the end of the Newman government.
Ms Palaszczuk's spokesman said about three quarters of the extra executives were "doctors, nurses, health practitioners and other positions" in Queensland Health. About 11 per cent of the top paid staff were hired by the Department of Education and, of the remainder, about a quarter worked for the Police Service, he said.
"The Palaszczuk Government stands by its record of rebuilding the public service following the cuts by the LNP," the spokesman said.
"Much of the growth in senior positions is for doctors and medical staff including visiting medical staff, clinical nurse managers and nurse educators, principals including executive principals, and commissioned police officers."
AMA president Michael Gannon said he would welcome those figures if they were frontline medical staff but said this seemed unlikely given the national shortage of senior doctors. "I'm surprised at those numbers," Dr Gannon said. "There is not always a great deal of benefit in increasing levels of middle management."
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the figures revealed the Government was taking on more executives instead of people who deliver the most needed services.
"With whole government departments in crisis, Annastacia Palaszczuk's claims about extra frontline services don't stack up," Ms Frecklington said.
"We have 470 fewer rail services a week, the health system on its knees, child safety in crisis, violent crime through the roof and the only answer Annastacia Palaszczuk has is more highly paid executives."
Former federal treasury official Gene Tunny said the rate of increase at the most senior levels of the public service appeared "excessive", even when taking account of the extra senior managers needed to oversee frontline staff.
Mr Tunny, who runs Adept Economics, said the Government needed to look at ways to boost efficiency and should show how the extra numbers of staff were justified.