Public service braces for Coalition cuts

Experts have warned the Coalition’s plan to cut more than $2.7bn from the public service would lead to a jump in spending on consultants and automation, leading to further failures that emulate robodebt.

What we know:

  • The Coalition on Tuesday said it will introduce $2.7bn worth of public service “efficiency dividends” to pay for its election promises (The Mandarin);  
  • The NDIS, ABC, SBS, Safe Work Australia, Australian Signals Directorate, Office of National Intelligence, Emergency Management Australia and National Recovery and Resilience Agency will be exempt;
  • Changes to how agency superannuation contributions are calculated will lead to a further $600m in savings;
  • The Community and Public Sector Union labelled the cuts as an “extraordinary attack on jobs and essential services” with an estimated 5500 jobs lost, resulting in more outsourcing to consultants (Innovation Aus); 
  • La Trobe University administrative law expert Dr Darren O’Donovan warned that government agencies would likely turn to automation to try to meet cost savings, leading to “failures like robodebt”;
  • Robodebt was originally envisioned as a budget savings measure, but ended up costing more than it saved (The Saturday Paper); 
  • The announcement could deal a blow to Coalition hopes in the Senate, undermining ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja’s campaign against former Wallaby captain David Pocock, who is running as an independent (AFR $); 
  • Labor, which will reveal its costings on Thursday, will promise $3bn in savings by slashing consultants and contractors, to be reinvested into the public service to hire more civil servants (The Australian $); 
  • Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers has said his main goal will not be to offset spending, arguing that “what matters most is the quality of the investments” (The Conversation). 
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Labor’s lead narrows in final week

Two major polls have shown a tightening of Labor’s lead over the Coalition as the election campaign enters its final few days.

What we know:

  • A new Resolve Strategic poll indicates Labor’s primary vote has dropped from 34% to 31% in a fortnight, while the Coalition is up a point to 34% (The Age); 
  • After preferences, Labor maintains its lead over the Coalition, but it has narrowed to 51% to 49%, down from 54% to 46%;
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s lead over Labor leader Anthony Albanese as preferred prime minister shrunk, however, and now sits at 40% to 36% compared to 39% to 33% two weeks ago (Pollbludger); 
  • The latest Guardian Essential poll meanwhile has Labor’s lead dropping from four points to two in the two-party preferred “plus” measure (The Guardian); 
  • The polling period included last week and early this week, taking in the Coalition’s campaign launch and proposal to let people put superannuation into home purchases.
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Ad campaigns diverge in last days

The Liberal Party has suddenly reduced its digital ad spending, as Labor splurges on a national anti-Scott Morrison attack on Facebook.

What we know:

  • From May 9-14, the Liberal Party's digital ad spend plummeted to $156,000 from $602,000 the week before (AdNews); 
  • Labor’s spend was fairly consistent at $695,000, up from $620,000 the week before;
  • United Australia Party outspent the major parties, ploughing more than $1m into digital ads last week, a 238% increase from the week prior;
  • On Facebook, Labor has spent 45% more than its Coalition equivalents throughout most of the campaign;
  • In the past week of data, the party has spent up to $125,000 showing its “No More Morrison” ad, skewing towards younger users in NSW, Victoria and Queensland;
  • The Coalition’s top ads instead focus on attacking Labor’s economic credentials, targeting younger voters in Queensland, NSW and WA;
  • It follows attempts at humour-based ads during the middle of the campaign by the major parties and the Greens (Mumbrella); 
  • Tasmanians have been subjected to by far the most advertising spend per person compared to residents of other states (ABC). 
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Bazzi wins Dutton appeal

A court of appeal has overturned a decision awarding Defence Minister Peter Dutton $35,000 in damages over a six-word tweet.

Refugee advocate Shane Bazzi won his Federal Court appeal after a judge earlier found he had defamed Dutton (ABC).  

In the original decision Bazzi was orded to pay $35,000 in damages after labelling the defence minister “a rape apologist”.

The tweet contained a link to an article quoting Dutton saying some refugee women on Nauru who complained of rape were “trying it on” in order to come to Australia.

The three appeal judges said on Tuesday an “ordinary, reasonable reader” would not gain the impression that it conveyed that Dutton excused rape given the attached article.

“The reader would conclude that the tweet was suggesting that Mr Dutton was sceptical about claims of rape ... that is very different from imputing that he excuses rape itself,” the judgement said.

Outside court, Bazzi said the victory set an important precedent for “anyone who wants to make political comment or criticism on social media”.

Bazzi crowdfunded over $150,000 to fund his defence of honest opinion and fair comment (The Saturday Paper).

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Mariupol fighters surrender to Russians

More than 250 Ukrainian fighters surrendered to Russian forces at a steelworks in Mariupol after weeks of resistance, allowing the invasion force to take full control of the devastated city.

Ukraine claims tens of thousands of people in Mariupol were killed under months of Russian bombardment (Reuters). 

Buses left the steelworks in a convoy escorted by armoured vehicles, with Russia promising the prisoners would be treated according to international standards.

A Russian committee reportedly plans to question the soldiers as part of an investigation into what Moscow calls “Ukrainian regime crimes”.

The surrender gives Moscow total control of the Azov Sea coast and an unbroken stretch of eastern and southern Ukraine.

In the northeast, however, Ukrainian forces have been advancing at their fastest pace for more than a month, driving Russian forces out of the area around Kharkiv.

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It’s caused an awful mess ... this boat is just sort of wreaking havoc now and we just need it gone.

Queensland state MP Brittany Lauga begs for the owner to come back and salvage a sunken luxury yacht that washed up on a Capricorn Coast beach over a week ago (ABC).

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Postscript: Mario, not so super at forty

So basically one day I wake up, and it’s-a like I can’t-a move my back. Like, at all. So I go to Dr. Mario (no relation), and he’s-a, like, “Mario, when’s-a the last time that you had a physical?” And I’m-a, like, “Can’t you just look at my back like-a normal?” And he’s-a, like, “No, because I’m-a starting to think there might-a be underlying problems” (The New Yorker).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.