The NT public service continues to grow at a higher rate than the population despite the Gunner Government’s repeated pledges over the last two years to implement a hiring freeze, the annual State of the Service report shows.
There are currently 400 more full-time equivalent staff as at June 2020 compared to December 2018, when the Gunner Government announced it was in a financial crisis and would implement a hiring freeze and encourage voluntary redundancies to save money.
The report showed there are currently 21,836 full-time equivalent employees – a hike of 413 from the 21,423 FTEs reported in March 2019, when the government officially committed to the staffing cap.
Even taking into account the government’s revised cap limit of 21,395 – which it adjusted last November – there’s still 441 more employees than what they pledged.
“In the last two years there has been a slight increase in the number of ongoing (permanent) employees and subsequent decrease in the number of fixed period (temporary contract) employee arrangements,” the State of the Service report states. “The proportion of casual employees has steadily declined in the last 10 years.”
The figures are disparate to the population and the private labour force, the report found.
“The growth in the NTPS has been steadily rising in the past two years even though the size of the NT labour force remained generally consistent during this same period,” the report stated.
“The most significant difference occurred in the past two years when the NT population slightly declined.
“The proportional growth in the NTPS full‐time equivalent (FTE) since 2016 is slightly higher than the growth in the NT population and NT labour force.”
The departments with the biggest increases in staffing between June 2019 and June 2020 were Health, Education and Police, Fire and Emergency Services.
The costs of government employees continues to be the single largest expense of the cash-strapped Northern Territory Government, which a 2019 Auditor General’s report found cost taxpayers $2.46 billion – a $100 million increase over the previous year.
All public servants were given a 2.5 per cent pay rise just before the election.
At the time of introducing the hiring freeze, then-treasurer Nicole Manison said it was part of “ongoing fiscal discipline measures”.
“Agencies must live within their means and setting a specific cap will ensure they do and help tackle expenditure growth,” she said in a press release in March 2019.
The NT Independent revealed in July that the NT has more “senior executive services” staff than Tasmania and the ACT combined, despite a quarter of the population.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner will release his first budget as Treasurer on November 10.