Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Media release

15 May 2008

Robb Wrong on DFAT Staff

The Shadow Foreign Minister’s Budget media release claims that more than 300 staff will be cut from key areas of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Mr Robb is wrong.

And if he could read the Budget Papers he would know it.

For Budget purposes the Department’s work is broken up into four key areas or Outcomes. Mr Robb attached to his media release a table from the Budget Papers with details for just one of these four Outcomes. He ignored the clear footnote directly below the figures he highlights: 

“2008-09 resourcing and ASL [staffing] figures reflect the implementation of an updated methodology for the allocation of resources between outcomes and across outputs.” (emphasis added)

The changes in the allocation methodology do not reflect major changes in the work people are doing but an updated methodology for estimating the allocation of this work across the Department’s Outcomes.

If Mr Robb had taken the time to read the whole document and the care to understand it, he would have known his assertion was simply wrong.

Across the whole Department, staffing levels are little changed - rising by 17 from 3,458 in 2007-08 to 3,475 in 2008-09.

This figure combines the modest staffing reductions previously announced (20 overseas positions and a partial staffing freeze in Canberra), an increase to address the rapidly growing demand for passport services (around 28) and an increase in locally-engaged staff at overseas posts (around 20) to support other Commonwealth agencies.

While the 2008-09 Budget does not contain any additional savings measures for DFAT, some of the savings previously announced in Additional Estimates ($4.4 million in 2008-09) are yet to be implemented. Estimates for these savings are also factored into the above figure.

The Department is finalising arrangements to deliver these remaining savings and the details will be announced shortly. This includes the consideration of a further reduction of five overseas positions.

Media inquiries: Mr Smith's office 02 6277 7500