Benchmarking the public sector against private sector service providers would provide a foundation on which to discuss meaningful reform of the public service, lower business costs, and stimulate economic activity and jobs, according to Business SA Chief Executive Nigel McBride.
McBride said reforming the public sector should complement the recently announced review of State tax laws as action on both fronts could lower business costs without compromising the standard of service from key agencies like education and health.
“While it is costing state taxpayers about $7.4 billion a year in state public service salaries and related costs there is little room for genuine tax reform with the government already under pressure from falling revenue,” McBride said.
“The Premier and the Leader of the Opposition have both said that they are committed to a world-class, efficient and effective state public service. The only way we’ll know whether or not we have got a world-class public sector is for transparent benchmarking.
“High cost areas like education and health should be benchmarked with their equivalents in the private and not-for-profit sector. That’s the only way that the public and the business community will know whether State taxpayers are getting a fair return on what is a very large investment.
“Such an exercise should also include the levels of provision across services like police, doctors, nurses and other frontline services. Whilst we understand that this is sometimes politically challenging, there is no point in adopting transparent benchmarking if it does not include the majority of the public sector and State Government services.
“Anecdotally we often hear that South Australia has, comparatively, a higher level of provision of many government services. The taxpaying public of South Australia should be aware of how those services levels compare to other Australian States and Territories and the relative cost of providing those levels of service.
“The benchmarking exercise should be undertaken by an independent, apolitical and objective provider with appropriately robust and transparent terms of reference.”
McBride acknowledged the electoral power of the huge voting bloc of public sector workers and the influence of the public sector union but said the Government should not be deterred, particularly if the Opposition was also on-side.
“We need genuine bipartisan support for an objective and apolitical process that will provide the kind of accurate data that the business sector and broader community have been long seeking in relation to the massive cost involved in many of these areas,” McBride said.
“At a time when so many South Australians are doing it tough the State public sector must not be insulated from reality. Genuine public sector reform must be about providing accurate data and transparent information as it is only then that we can have confidence that our tax dollars are paying for efficient and world class services.”
Local News Matters
Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.