Premier Mike Rann’s promised 15 per cent cut in ministerial office budgets is yet another example of blatant political spin, Shadow Finance Minister Rob Lucas said today.
Immediately after the budget, Mr Rann was in ‘full spin’ mode, claiming big cuts:
Rann: “We’re actually I think taking a 15% hit on my budget in terms of all of that.”
Bevan: “So no cut to the spin doctors?”
Rann: “I just said 15% to our ministerial offices”
(ABC Radio, 10/6/2011)
“However, the 15 percent cut will not be applied to the total actual cost of staff and resources in Ministers’ offices, as it won’t take into account the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid by departments to ‘top up’ staffing and resources in Ministers’ offices.
Mr Lucas said budget documents listed the total cost of ministerial offices at $26.95 million, but the true amount would be millions of dollars more because departments also pay for significant costs.
“Evidence to the Legislative Council Budget and Finance Committee has confirmed departments are paying up to $679,004 total in salary costs for ministerial offices.
“For example, in the 2009/10 budget papers Transport Minister Pat Conlon’s office is listed as having 9.7 full-time equivalents with a $1.561 million cost. However, the Committee revealed the Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure paid $679,004 for another eight full-time equivalent staff.
Other evidence to the committee has revealed extra ‘top-up’ spending in 2009/10 of $608,000 for Mr Rann, $466,000 for Health Minister John Hill, $446,000 for Attorney-General John Rau and $386,000 for former Treasurer Kevin Foley.
The following answers from Treasury officer David Reynolds confirms the position to relation to departments ‘topping up’ funding to a Minister’s office:
Lucas: “In that case there’s another seven staff in his office paid for by the department and the 15 per cent isn’t applied to that particular number?”
Reynolds: “That’s correct.”
Lucas: “And there is nothing that prevents the Minister acquiring additional staff from the department if he or she so wishes?”
Reynolds: “There are always discussions between the Chief Executive and the Minister on those issues.”
“Clearly, this claimed 15% cut is just more spin from the Premier. When it comes to ministerial office cuts, Mr Rann takes with one hand, but tops up with the other,” Mr Lucas said.
“The Rann Government has been caught out concealing the true costs of running ministerial offices, whilst imposing savage service cuts and increases in taxes and charges.”