700 jobs to go as Rudd's axe falls on Immigration Department
Published in The Brisbane Times
May 1, 2009
ONE in 10 jobs is expected to be slashed from the Immigration Department in this month's federal budget.
Despite the recent surge in boat arrivals, about 700 jobs will be cut from the department, which has 7000 staff in 100 locations in Australia and worldwide.
The skilled migrant intake slashed by 14 per cent in March to protect local jobs is likely to be cut further in the budget. But Australia's refugee intake will increase by 250 to 13,750, as projected in last year's budget.
Immigration Department managers have been asked to discuss voluntary redundancies with staff and some cuts will come from natural attrition. Involuntary redundancies are also a possibility.
The department will also have to shave more than $50 million from its $1.1 billion annual budget, $20-$30 million from IT savings alone.
But despite the savings required, the department has to spend millions of dollars processing asylum seekers on remote Christmas Island, which is 2600 kilometres from Perth.
More than 200 people, including interpreters, lawyers and 38 department staff are on the island to support the 270 asylum seekers. The cost of a return ticket on a commercial flight to Christmas Island from Perth is almost $2000.
The Community and Public Sector Union has accused the Rudd Government of hypocrisy for slashing its own workforce while urging private sector bosses to retain staff.
The Government imposed a 3.25 per cent “efficiency dividend” this financial year, requiring each department to cut spending by that percentage.
With a drop in the skilled migration intake, it is believed many of the cuts to Immigration Department staff could fall in visa-processing areas.
Less than a year after increasing the skilled migrant intake to record levels, the Rudd Government responded to the global financial crisis by reducing the intake from 133,500 to 115,000 for the 2008-09 financial year.
That will be cut further in the budget, believed to be to fewer than 110,000.
Employer applications for 457 visas have also slumped because of the global financial crisis.
Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe warned staff in March in a leaked memo that the department needed to reduce its budget. “We have to start acting now to identify savings and reduce expenditure,” he said.
The latest cuts come on top of about 250 job losses last year.
Source: The Age