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1 year ago
The Morrison-Joyce Government’s privatisation of public sector capability in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is responsible for record waiting times and reduced services for Australia’s veterans, the APS Inc Senate inquiry has found.

The report from the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee tabled in Parliament late yesterday found that the Abbott Government’s 2015 cap on public sector hiring has forced government departments to replace thousands of public servants with temporary labour hire contractors.

The report’s case study on DVA found that it has the largest proportion of labour hire contractors of any government department: 33.4% of the total departmental workforce as of April 2021.

Evidence given to the committee found that DVA used 46 separate labour hire providers in 2019-20 at a cost of $82.1 million. At that stage, 41.6% of the department’s workforce was labour hire, including over 50% of frontline claims processing staff.

The report finds that replacing experienced public servants with external labour hire contractors has had a disastrous effect on services for Australian veterans. The report finds that the high rates of labour hire contractors led to unsustainable caseloads, high staff turnover and the need to constantly retrain new staff – creating significant delays in processing times.

The average processing time for initial liability claims is now 193 days – more than double the 90-day deadline outlined in the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004. Research commissioned by the department shows that delays in processing compensation claims has a direct impact on the mental health of claimants.

Additionally, the use of labour hire contractors to process some of the most vulnerable and complex cases has created concern that veterans are not receiving the quality of services that they need. This sensitive work requires a well-trained and stable workforce that is undermined by the use of short-term contract staff.

This is why the Royal Commission into defence and veteran suicide, which opens in Brisbane today, is expected to look closely at the impact of long wait times and the complexity of the DVA claims process on veterans’ mental health.

The Morrison Government’s response to record processing times has been to commission another external report from McKinsey and Company. DVA is also one of the largest users of external management consultants of any government department.

Instead of spending more taxpayer money on dodgy contracts with external consultants and labour hire companies, the Government should invest in a permanent, well-trained APS workforce capable of delivering the services that Australian veterans need. 

Veteran Affairs