ACCC funding and performance discussion

Don’t blame the ACCC for having nobody available to answer their constantly ringing phones - that is a budget problem.

I have prepared the following table to show you the ACCC’s annual ordinary appropriation over the last several financial years. Bear in mind that work in a government agency is almost never reduced or eliminated; almost nothing ever stops being done.

No idea what happened in 2013-14 - presumably someone can remind us all why the ACCC got a sudden influx of money, half of which was taken away the following year. Regardless, inflation keeps on going on. Prices go up. Funding goes down. Phones lie unanswered.


… my angst was due to wasting 5 minutes (easily). It seems unlikely that they got busy between when I called and when I finally had a chance to select the right option - I’d rather they fast-track the ‘all our operators are out for a smoke’ message :wink: Yeah, I know its not easy - setting up IVR’s can be tricky especially if the expertise available is at the level of the people who ‘implemented’ myGov …

The wheels turn slowly - I reckon your last statement should probably read “almost nothing is ever done”. Glaciers are livelier. The budget story goes both ways - departments are responsible for their budgets and ministers their budget estimates but there is rarely if ever push-back from the butt-kissers at the top when budgets are insufficient or cut, they just want to please their masters while the minions in the galley just get told to row faster and harder. Nothing much has changed in thousands of years really, we just have smartphones now with broken apps to interface to government rejection and indifference, but I digress …


Reality is the LNP is ideologically bent on reducing government and its services (while giving themselves and their donors ever more) and their main lever is the budget. If you reduce the budget enough sooner or later less will have to be done as a matter of fact.

Most agencies have line workers who are dedicated to serving us and resist, so ‘almost nothing’ stops being done because of their good will toward us rather than the pollies mandates. That cannot go on forever as there is more and more budget pressure hindering them.

Been there, experienced that.


The sudden rise and drop were, I seem to remember, from the Petrol Price service/watchdog which was a lame horse even before it started and it failed to be supported by the incoming LNP Govt thus the somewhat savage reduction.


Let me assure you that what you say is an outdated and misinformed view perpetuated by TV and urban myth. No doubt there are sinecures in the Australian Public Service (APS), but the vast majority of Public Servants are hard working.

I think it would be fairer to compare the APS to the military, in that there is a very clearly delineated hierarchy that generally must be navigated. The APS tried to combat this by making ‘flatter’ organizations. Unfortunately, even so there were still bottlenecks at senior management levels because of the need to check that what was being done and money being spent complied with the political imperatives.

As to funding, while Departments can bid for funding based on increased workload, the funding is determined by the politicians. For many years they have required an efficiency dividend, which in plain English means ‘we are cutting your funds’ by a certain percentage. Organization heads can put forward cases as to why they should get more funding, but generally this is ignored by the political masters who dole out money based on their parity’s agenda.

The problem is that while politicians promise new activities, programs, and spending, due to the political fall-out they rarely if ever scrap old ones. This means there is more to be done, generally with the same resources, so staffing and funding is stretched thinner.

Rarely, when there is a political very hot potato, an extra allocation of funds will be provided to set up a new area in an existing organization, or a new organization, and staff it, generally for a predetermined set period.

Historically under the LNP’s ideology of small government is best, the APS has forced to contract in size with consequential loss of skills, knowledge, resources, and infrastructure. Inevitably after being in office for a period (usually in the second full term), they realize that thing can’t/don’t run this way and start to quietly rebuild often ending up with a larger APS than before they started. Problem is that it takes time to rebuild the loss of corporate knowledge, systems that have been destroyed, replace the lost expertise, etc…

While I agree that the ACCC is a toothless tiger, I wouldn’t blame the public servants working there. Rather, sheet the blame where it belongs: to the politicians who make the determinations on funding and determine the (high level) policies/approaches that must be adhered to.


Very true.

Maybe, but I watched an agency where middle management and the rank and file reduced, while the senior executive ranks expanded 4-fold, all while some routine delegation was reserved for the most senior management, and the approvals process became more cumbersome. But it looked flatter on the org chart. In addition the SES levels typically have contracts where they get reviews every year as well as bonuses while the rank and file have not had an increase in 3+ years, common across the APS under the LNP government.

Yet the rank and file continue to soldier away doing their jobs in spite of the increasingly confrontational relationship between them and their agencies (as proxies for government).

Reality is that at the SES3 level that is the job description, although not ever written so bluntly.

There is not much evidence reality is replacing ideology with this mob. To wit the myriad arbitration claims for new EA’s, hiring freezes excepting for SES, the ongoing and thus compounding efficiency dividend, and so on.


I think we largely agree, I wasn’t blaming ‘the workers’ - my point possibly lost - “… while the minions in the galley just get told to row faster and harder.” - and they do row faster and harder, although ‘minions’ is probably not a particularly nice term for the vast numbers of Public Service people actually doing the work, it is certainly how they are seen by their masters gliding around in the rarefied altitudes of the buttkissosphere willingly doing the human centipede with the politicians … they and the politicians I do blame :slight_smile:

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Edit: removed original target quote after scrolling down; remainder of post remains relevant.

I know plenty of Australians think that public servants do bugger all, but it was largely a fiction even forty years ago, and since then enormous cuts have been made in a search for ‘efficiency’.

There is a reason that government is a bureaucracy that seems to be incredibly slow in doing anything; that is what voters want. It is what politicians want. It is what everyone wants, but always denies when asked! You want a public service that doesn’t make mistakes, or leave anyone out of decision-making, or fail to consider the consequences of change… and then complain about it!!! We have bureaucracies because they are slow and deliberative; then five minute politicians come along and say they want something different - except they don’t want the risk and cannot accept blame.

Moving to digital is exceptionally risky for bureaucracies, and by and large efforts have been failing dismally. But do you really think it’s the fault of the ABS that last year’s census was a total disaster? Was it the fault of Queensland government agencies that they wasted a billion dollars on IT systems that could not do what they paid for? Sorry, but this once-in-a-generation change to how government interacts with people is failing for a very simple reason: money.

Australians, along with most of the population of the ‘west’, do not pay enough tax to fund what we demand from government. Some governments see this as an opportunity to cut services to the poorest of us; others increase debt; none have yet bitten the bullet and properly addressed what we can get at what tax rate, and until they start doing this they will keep expecting ‘those public service bludgers’ (as some regularly phrase their ill-informed complaints) to keep doing fine with this magic pudding.

We need a taxation discussion where half of the issue isn’t left ‘off the table’, and as pointed out by @meltam we need to examine where our opinions about those who are employed by the taxpayer actually come from and whether they need a rethink! I know the Murdochracy - led by The UnAustralian - cannot get enough out of its bashing of public servants, but does anyone still take those rags seriously with their ‘free speech for me but not for thee’ and other blatherings?


I suggest the real problem is that pollies and their agency heads with their senior management get sold on the benefits of things that are costly, risky, but not benefits, under the guise of ‘how good it will be’ and how much it will save if nothing goes wrong and everything goes right.

Lots of tax money is ill spent and wasted on pie in the sky concepts that never had a rigorous business case. Pollies, including ministers, rarely have any related skill except point scoring, pointing over there not over here, spinning, and generally insulting the electorate’s intelligence as often as not. The Westminster system dictates they rely on expert advice from the public service, but the public service has been politicised to tell them what they want to hear in many cases, and in others just pressured to take risks to do the near impossible so they grasp at whatever snake oil they can find that might work for them.

It is not just what is affordable, it is the entire process of decision making vis a vis reality and having realistic expectations. Government ‘risk registers’ are as often conducted as tick the box exercises as anything, and some ministers do not entertain bad news or that something is dangerously difficult, so off they and their portfolio go. All this ignoring the damages from those political parties that operate with ideology, dogma and partisanship above everything else.


Judging by our electoral results recent and otherwise, and the affects of fake news in the USA and increasingly other places where unfounded propaganda and blatant lies replace any semblance of news, and news is discounted as fallacious by a large segment of the population, they do :frowning:


This! Increasingly our system is dominated by yes-people who are unwilling/unable to speak truth to power. We hear continuously about ‘tough decisions’ and ‘long consultations’, but everyone who has seen decisions that are made by our federal and state politicians can also see very clearly that evidence and making tough decisions are words that have nothing to do with how our money is spent.

The NBN is just one bungle among many, and our current prime minister is still trying - mid-way through his party’s second term in government - that the problems are those of ‘the other mob’. Has he no shame? After playing Abbott’s attack-dog on an actual policy, he has spent our money making the worst of a bad situation! This is not to forgive those opposite, but there is no such thing as ‘ultimate responsibility’ any longer.

As for sham consultations, the ABS showed us exactly how it’s done when ‘consulting’ on the last census. Two week consultation period, no announcement, over Christmas. They got four responses, all of which said “Don’t even think of identifying individual data”, and they announced what the government of the day wanted. “Consultation done, we are going to be able to identify you all from your census data”. Great example of consultative government, and the result is census data that nobody can rely upon - as well as the destruction of a reputation that the agency spent decades building!

We the taxpayers are being taken for a ride by a bunch of politicians who imagine themselves as ‘born to rule’ - whether on the left or right. Even those separations (left and right) should be dead by now; overtaken by a more meaningful examination of what people care about - but we still have a party political system and class that is operated on this idea of ‘either you’re a commie or a fascist’! Hawke and Keating may have flown the flag, but their actions were very much on the capitalist side of that equation.

Unfortunately, it appears that good government is dying from the top down as us common folk are expected to simply nod and smile at the blatant lies of our ‘leaders’. Is Donald Trump the example of the ultimate ends of democracy? Are we doomed to an increasingly class-based society, in which the Trumps and Boris Johnsons of the world will tell us exactly where we belong? Is our public service increasingly being used in service of the few rather than the many, and being driven to decisions that are the opposite of what a traditional bureaucracy might make by the ever-pressing need to say yes? Is it an unjust world, in which virtue is triumphant only in theatrical performances? Can anyone reading this soliloquy name the source of that last question without the use of any online reference tools?



“I’m really sorry for you all”. I had to look it up even though we did G&S in primary school.

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