Labor is demanding the Attorney-General’s Department explain why it appeared to calculate the cost of an opposition plan to let workers transfer accumulated leave between jobs, arguing it let itself become politicised.
Opposition industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke wrote to the department on February 18 asking why the politically neutral body provided figures to Attorney-General Christian Porter that he used to assert Labor’s leave policy could cost employers $20 billion annually.
Tony Burke has demanded the Attorney-General’s Department explain its costings.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
“We are… concerned you have not dissociated your department from this discredited exercise which is not in keeping with the apolitical role of the Australian Public Service,” Mr Burke wrote to the department’s acting secretary, Iain Anderson, in the letter seen by this masthead.
A day after media reported Labor leader Anthony Albanese would announce a plan to let “insecure workers” take paid leave with them from job to job earlier in February, Mr Porter attacked the plan as a “tax” on businesses of up to $20 billion annually.
The figure was based on an analysis by Mr Porter’s department, which he referred to, of the cost of giving all independent contractors and casuals paid leave that Labor was forced to clarify was not its intent.
In the letter, Mr Burke said the figures had been “misrepresented as costings associated by the opposition’s Secure Australian Jobs Plan”, pointing out the figures were released before the plan was formally unveiled by Mr Albanese.
Both sides of politics have used the public service to provide cost estimates on their opponent’s policies when in government, often in the form of asking for a price on the likely constituent elements of a policy rather than a policy itself.
Mr Porter said in a statement that the government costed the scenario of casuals and contractors getting paid leave “because we were concerned that would be an extinction level cost for business”.
“It is not a matter of costing Labor’s policies because they can’t even be clear on what their policy is,” he said.
An unnamed media officer at the Attorney-General’s Department confirmed the letter had been received and the department would reply, but did not respond to Mr Burke’s contentions.
Labor was burned at the last election by false claims it wanted to institute a “death tax”, also known as an inheritance tax, which were circulated online despite it not being an opposition policy.
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