The warring tribes: AusAID versus DFAT

Don’t you just love it?  The princes and princess in AusAID and DFAT are squabbling over their privileges as the government attempts to bang together these two organisations.

Wow and more wow.  AudAID staff get 18 weeks paid parental leave (4 weeks more than the usual) (and most will be entitled to payment under the government scheme as well) and $400 per year to pay for gym membership.  What? Because they are not paid enough to buy membership themselves?

But over at DFAT, there are lots of in-house privileges, including child care, gym, cafe, free parking (although this latter is coming to an end).

(I happened upon another public sector agency agreement in which holiday care for children is paid at the rate of $200 per week by the agency.)

What does this story tell us?

A decisive showdown looms this week between two factions battling for control of union representation of the merged foreign affairs and overseas aid departments in Canberra.

Members will be asked on Thursday to vote for a single leader of the Community and Public Sector Union at DFAT, the department that swallowed up AusAID last year, as the two opposing groups continue to exchange fire.

One of the left-leaning young turks from AusAID, who are challenging the more conservative DFAT delegates, accused the union hierarchy at foreign affairs of trying to arrange job losses so that former AusAID staff bore the brunt of the bloodletting.

A sharp north-south divide has opened up in the merged department between workers at AusAID’s old headquarters in Civic and DFAT’s nerve centre at Barton’s RG Casey Building.

Barbs have also been exchanged over the ”privileges” of each group.

One DFAT Civic union activist, who wishes to remain anonymous, said there was deep distrust north of the lake for the Barton union ”cadre”.

”When DFAT Barton staff’s objective is to ensure that redundancies fall solely within the subgroup of jobs from the newbies across the north side of the lake, those of us north side are not convinced of the effectiveness of the status quo,” the AusAID staffer said.

Complaints have also broken out over working conditions and the age-old battleground for public servants who work overseas, the coveted plum posting, has also proven to be a flashpoint.

”DFAT Barton, even at very senior levels, continues to complain about the ‘better conditions’ DFAT Civic staff enjoy, while they enjoy their own cafeteria, gym, childcare centre, and what remains of their free parking,” the former AusAIDer said. ”While we worry about whether we will have a job, they voice concerns about AusAIDers stealing their opportunities for posting.”

But a DFAT veteran shot back, alleging that the AusAID delegates had a ”cosseted arrangement” with the management of their abolished agency. The foreign affairs staffer pointed out that AusAID workers still enjoyed more generous maternity leave than their new colleagues and they could still claim their $400 annual ‘‘gym’’ allowance, which can be spent on fitness club membership or other health and fitness products or services.

The ballot of union members, which opens on Thursday and will run for a week, is expected to pit AusAID executive Siddhartha Chakrabarti against DFAT stalwart Christopher Lang.

The union’s ruling executive council will appoint the winner to the position of secretary of a new merged branch until fresh elections are held in 2015.

 

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59 Responses to The warring tribes: AusAID versus DFAT

  1. Shelley

    Shut. Them. Down. Fire. Them. All.

  2. Alf

    Shut. Them. Down. Fire. Them. All.

    Great idea, who needs diplomatic representation overseas? Does putting a full-stop after every sentence make it more emphatic? Or is it just meant to indicate anger?

    What does this story tell us?

    That you can find in-fighting anywhere.

  3. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    as the government attempts to bang together these two organisations.

    Try banging together a few cossetted, pampered heads……my taxes fund how much in gym membership?

  4. Tintarella di Luna

    “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make them my friends?” even today Abe Lincoln had a peerless wisdom.

  5. smcg51

    I don’t mind the fact that there is infighting and intrigue – especially when the benefits appear to be particularly good. Neither do I, nor would I, reflexively “bag” public servants as some do.

    I was though bemused that this warranted front page coverage on the Canberra Times.

  6. Jazza

    Nah, can’t be right!
    Bill Shorten told us the union rorting was confined to a few bad apples!

  7. Mayan

    Can we please stop paying people more to have kids. Rats can shag and beget more rats: it’s not difficult. If people want to spawn, then let them pick up the costs of doing so.

  8. .

    Alf
    #1236896, posted on March 24, 2014 at 5:21 pm
    Shut. Them. Down. Fire. Them. All.

    Great idea, who needs diplomatic representation overseas?

    AusAID? Lol…

  9. Notafan

    Gym membership is a big nothing. Far cheaper to pay a BS allowance than a percentage payrise, it doesn’t go up each pay round, no entitlements like holiday pay or super etc. Management is smart to agree to allowances.

  10. Shelley

    Great idea, who needs diplomatic representation overseas? Does putting a full-stop after every sentence make it more emphatic? Or is it just meant to indicate anger?

    Yep, get rid of the waste and excessive entitlements. Yep, lots of anger, lots of anger against the waste and rubbish that taxpayers money gets wasted on. Do you seriously think these public servants should get all of these perks? And don’t got to the ‘politicians do’ – stick to the topic, they are public servants.

  11. Gab

    This gym membership lark – are the public servants (ha ha) paid directly whether they use the gym or not? Or do we taxpayers pay the gym memberships directly to the gyms whether the public servants use them or not?

  12. Mayan

    One of the big problems with allowances is that, while they’re great if you want them (such as fitness freaks with kids at DFAT or AUSAid), you are effectively paid less if they are of no use to you. I’m surprised no one has decided to sue over them on the basis of discrimination.

  13. Alf

    AusAID? Lol…

    There is no AusAID Dot, it’s all DFAT now. But when there was an AusAID Australian businesses benefitted enormously through contracts and project implementation.

  14. Molly Molloy

    AusAid and DFAT should check their privileges.

  15. Alf

    Yep, get rid of the waste and excessive entitlements. Yep, lots of anger, lots of anger against the waste and rubbish that taxpayers money gets wasted on. Do you seriously think these public servants should get all of these perks? And don’t got to the ‘politicians do’ – stick to the topic, they are public servants.

    I don’t think most public servants get these entitlements and I think that the gym thing is reimbursable if you claim it, it’s not given to everyone whether it used or not – it’s some kind of healthy lifestyle thing. What are the other perks? Cafeteria – the food isn’t free, they pay for it, same with child care – it just happens to be on site. But hey, it’s easy to misrepresent. So chill a little, no need for all the anger. I don’t recall mentioning politicians in my post or going off topic, so why bring it up?

  16. Bruce of Newcastle

    I have no problem with AusAID personnel wanting perks. So long as they are hands on – delivering aid on the ground in remote PNG and Afghanistan.

    All AusAID personnel, including executive band, should do at least three months a year of this duty.

    Our PM does a week each year in Aboriginal communities and more time in volunteer fire fighting work. So why shouldn’t AusAID people do likewise, in their field?

    Also since they are now part of DFAT, the fringe benefit would be a rather large improvement in the regard paid to Australians by the poor population of such countries. That would be well worth the airfares and tent allowances paid to the AusAID personnel. Even the high budgetary cost of Immodium would be well worthwhile.

    And as shocked AusAID personnel find excellent and urgent reasons to find other jobs, that would shrink the cost to the budget.

  17. .

    Alf
    #1236938, posted on March 24, 2014 at 6:09 pm
    AusAID? Lol…

    There is no AusAID Dot, it’s all DFAT now. But when there was an AusAID Australian businesses benefitted enormously through contracts and project implementation.

    Yeah…that must explain all the successful outward direct investment since about 1985…lol

  18. Alf

    Bruce, lots of AusAID people do the type of work you’re suggesting – not all, of course, but many and if not in a block of several months, then in smaller chunks of time that add up over a year or two. As for the PM, I don’t want a PM who fights fires, he can put that aside for a while and stick to his day job. As for his week a year schtick; http://www.independentaustralia.net/article-display/tony-abbotts-costly-indigenous-community-volunteering,5628

  19. David of Adelagado

    Was at a BBQ on Sunday and worked out that about 13 of the 20 people there were federal, state, or local council employees. (Of the other 7, 3 were self employed, 2 were employed and 2 were retired). And this was pretty ordinary middle class bunch. How the hell can Australia afford this?

  20. jupes

    So long as they are hands on – delivering aid on the ground in remote PNG and Afghanistan.

    Only a small percentage of them actually do that.

    The majority of them work in an office and pay contractors to delivery the aid.

  21. .

    David of Adelagado
    #1236993, posted on March 24, 2014 at 7:06 pm
    Was at a BBQ on Sunday and worked out that about 13 of the 20 people there were federal, state, or local council employees. (Of the other 7, 3 were self employed, 2 were employed and 2 were retired). And this was pretty ordinary middle class bunch. How the hell can Australia afford this?

    We can’t. Business also has high regulatory costs and fees, and we pay our taxes through an inefficient system.

    Hence why we have a massive pool of unemployed who are off the books.

  22. Alf

    Dot’s having a shot at the messenger. He missed.

  23. .

    Your message is the success of foreign investment by Australians is because of AusAID?

    You’re a fucking cretin, champ.

  24. Dan

    Gym membership is a big nothing. Far cheaper to pay a BS allowance than a percentage payrise, it doesn’t go up each pay round, no entitlements like holiday pay or super etc. Management is smart to agree to allowances.

    Doctors in training have been nickel and dimed this way for years. There are a number of big entitlements/leave arrangements that were taken in lieu of pay increases, and which are hardly ever honoured.

  25. Des Deskperson

    The underlying managerial problem in the merger is that while core DFAT wants to run the show (and, if the merger between Trade and Foreign Affairs in 1987 is any indication, it will end up doing so), it doesn’t have any of the programme management and technical skills needed to implement, run and evaluate an overseas aid programme.

    It’s important to bear in mind here that the, err, ‘rarified’ nature of diplomacy means that it’s possible to reach the Senior Executive Service in DFAT without ever having to manage a budget, evaluate a tender, oversee a contract, co-ordinate a project, exercise a delegation or supervise more than half a dozen people.

    On the other hand, AusAID (now, BTW, referred to in APS circles as WasAID) recently spent a great deal of time recruiting and developing people with aid project management skills. Presumably they will retain a few of the younger AusAID staff who will be absorbed or smothered by the DFAT culture. Aid expertise will then have to be contracted in.

    Oh, and Alf is right about the APS ‘privileges’

  26. Bruce of Newcastle

    lots of AusAID people do the type of work you’re suggesting

    Alf – Do you have any case studies or reports you can link? I would be interested. My current impression is that AusAID desk jockeys pilot comfortable desks.

    However I am quite serious about all AusAID personnel being engaged hands on for a set period each year. Its like annual camp in the Army Reserve, the experience would be salutary and the street cred it would generate would fully offset the jaundiced view of public servants that people like me hold (and yes I have had to deal with many public servants during my career – my perhaps unjustified views have been coloured by those experiences).

    But since I am a scientist I should be willing to be convinced by data controverting my view. If you have some I’d be obliged.

  27. Chris

    I’ve worked at private companies that have free gyms on site or offer discounts for private gyms. Large companies do it for the same reason that they offer things like free flu vaccines. It saves them money in the long term.

  28. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    These people are public bloody servants and they are due the same remuneration basis as the clerks who keep the filing room records in the Department of Archiving. While they are squabbling like entitled young mothers on the kindergarten management committee, over who is and isn’t entitled to an apartment with an ocean view in Riyadh, who is doing the vital work that demands such numbers be employed?

    If they’ve got time to spend on interdepartmental warfare at my expense then they’ve got time to wait on the queue at Centrelink.

    “But when there was an AusAID Australian businesses benefitted enormously through contracts and project implementation.”

    Haw, haw, haw, bork, bork, bork. AusAID is / was a junior version of the UN and the World Bank, trading favours and other people’s money for status, class and power. Friends doing business in China particularly and SE Asia generally, from architectural design to manufacturing specialised metal fittings, have never mentioned AusAID or government assistance of any type in the 25 years that we’ve discussed things there.

    Business people in volunteer groups such as Rotary do more effective overseas aid work, with no workforce cost, than government agencies could even imagine.

  29. Des Deskperson

    Bruce
    In June 2013, 15% of AusAID were stationed overseas. That’s a fair whack, given the limited numbers of countries where Australia has significant aid programmes. And unlike DFAT, most of them are only middle management.

    I also know several former AusAID people who were programme evaluators. They used to spend around one in every eight weeks overseas, often in regional hell-holes, and they flew economy.

  30. Workers of the world unite and we will not be defeated?

    Union amalgamations are never pretty.

  31. Gab

    I’ve worked at private companies that have free gyms on site or offer discounts for private gyms. Large companies do it for the same reason that they offer things like free flu vaccines. It saves them money in the long term.

    So what? It’s not being paid for by the taxpayer. If the mooches want free gym membership then they are welcome to join a commercial enterprise offering them that.

  32. stackja

    smcg51
    #1236919, posted on March 24, 2014 at 5:43 pm
    I don’t mind the fact that there is infighting and intrigue – especially when the benefits appear to be particularly good. Neither do I, nor would I, reflexively “bag” public servants as some do.
    I was though bemused that this warranted front page coverage on the Canberra Times.

    Canberra Times Owner: Fairfax Media.
    Fairfax always independent is the supposed private servant of the public servant class.
    <

    Are you a skilled public servant but can’t find a job ? Would you like to work in a new building once dubbed ”Lubyanka on the Lake”? Then you should become a spy.
    Jobs working for the government might be scarce – just 82 permanent jobs were available in the 160,000-person strong public service last week – but the Australian Security and Intelligence Agency and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service are hiring.

  33. samuel j

    I like how the DFATer mentioned maternity leave.

    Because DFAT has the most generous maternity leave arrangement on the planet. AusAID never allowed its officers the same maternity leave arrangement while posted that DFAT has.

    See here.

  34. Alf

    Your message is the success of foreign investment by Australians is because of AusAID?

    Show me where I said that. I didn’t. Cretin, indeed.

    Bruce, I don’t have a link but I know this from personal contacts. I should have added that a lot of people who work there do the sort of work you’re referring too before they take up the AusAID job and then bring that experience to the (former) organisation.

    Look at Des’s post, he’s right. AusAID people have been in Rwands in the mid-90s, Timor, Bougainville etc. It’s not that uncommon. Some were also in the Former Yugoslavia for extended periods (in a private capacity) but while remaining employed by AusAID.

  35. Des Deskperson

    ‘DFAT Barton…. enjoy their own cafeteria, gym, childcare centre..’
    Old Canberra Joke (after the DFAT paedophile allegations of the nineties):

    Q: what’s the most dangerous place for a kiddie in Canberra?
    A: the DFAT child care centre

  36. Free Advice

    Hot pipes, hot pipes. They’re at it again on be ABC 7.30!
    Can you believe it?

  37. .

    Alf
    #1237035, posted on March 24, 2014 at 7:48 pm
    Your message is the success of foreign investment by Australians is because of AusAID?

    Show me where I said that.

    LOL

    Alf
    #1236938, posted on March 24, 2014 at 6:09 pm
    AusAID? Lol…

    There is no AusAID Dot, it’s all DFAT now. But when there was an AusAID Australian businesses benefitted enormously through contracts and project implementation.

    So it was only arms length trade. Where’s the fucking evidence you pillock?

    GO!!!

  38. Bruce of Newcastle

    Thanks, Des. Good to hear. I still stand by my comment however. At times in my work we’ve had our admin assistants in overalls working in our pilot plant. Me too of course. It always is worth it to get people closely attuned to the sharp end.

  39. Al

    Public servants SHOULD’NT be allowed to be represented by unions……end of story!!!

  40. Bruce of Newcastle

    And thanks also Alf, I didn’t see your reply until I hit ‘post comment’.

  41. .

    #1237042, posted on March 24, 2014 at 7:53 pm
    Alf
    #1237035, posted on March 24, 2014 at 7:48 pm
    Your message is the success of foreign investment by Australians is because of AusAID?

    Show me where I said that.

    LOL

    Alf
    #1236938, posted on March 24, 2014 at 6:09 pm
    AusAID? Lol…

    There is no AusAID Dot, it’s all DFAT now. But when there was an AusAID Australian businesses benefitted enormously through contracts and project implementation.

    So it was only arms length trade. Where’s the god-damned evidence you cretinous pillock?

    GO!!!

  42. .

    PS

    If you want to read a ridiculous work agreement/EBA, read the Australian Federal Police one.

    I respect the AFP for their missing persons, conbatting economic crime, high level fraud, detaining dangerous fugitives, combatting domestic terrorism along with ASIO and State Police forces etc, but their EBA will shock you. I understand that doing undercover work might require a lot of time off, but please read their agreement first…

  43. .

    Moderation for that comment regarding the work conditions of the Federal Police?

    Silly. Just silly.

  44. stackja

    Liberty Quotes
    The first shame is that we have allowed self-interested authorities to build their bloody empires; the second is that we do absolutely nothing to foil their thievery.
    — Professor Bunyip

  45. Abu Chowdah

    It’s important to bear in mind here that the, err, ‘rarified’ nature of diplomacy means that it’s possible to reach the Senior Executive Service in DFAT without ever having to manage a budget, evaluate a tender, oversee a contract, co-ordinate a project, exercise a delegation or supervise more than half a dozen people.

    Very true. And this is why I think it’s ridiculous that senior ambassadors (with some exceptions) get appointed to run departments and agencies outside of their rarified experience.

  46. stackja

    Abu Chowdah
    #1237100, posted on March 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm
    Very true. And this is why I think it’s ridiculous that senior ambassadors (with some exceptions) get appointed to run departments and agencies outside of their rarified experience.

    Burton, John Wear (1915–2010) from Canberra Times Citation details
    ‘Burton, John Wear (1915–2010)’, Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/burton-john-wear-15790/text26986, accessed 24 March 2014.

  47. siltstone

    Recently I listened as an overseas stationed AusAID person at an Australia Day Function in a large South American capital city told every Australian and non-Australian within earshot how much she hated Tony Abbott for upsetting her comfy lifestyle by merging AusAID with DAFT. She was so outraged she had decided she might have to retire and go to live in the second house she owns in the south of France. I can’t tell you how proud I felt on that Australian Day, knowing that next year Tony Abbott had saved the throng from yet another public servant rant based on “the world owes me a living” mentality.

  48. Nads

    It’s often the small cultural differences that create wrinkles in a merger, whether in the private sector or between agencies. It seems to me that the DFAT culture is antiquated (at taxpayers expense). Postings are seen as massive paydays – pay off the house, have a kid without cost or any inconvenience (a maid will do all that), get the snout into those travel allowances. And for what? Processing visas, helping backpackers phone home, organising another ‘strategic’ cocktail function? Low to mid ranking functionaries with grand old world diplomatic titles. Isn’t that where Rudd honed his managerial and diplomatic skills? Maybe this is a good point to put everything on the table.

  49. Alf

    Do you have a comprehension problem Dot? I said Australian businesses benefited enormously, I did not attribute the success of foreign investment by Australians to AusAID? But AusAID is part of the story. The example that comes to mind is the company that built the bridges over the Mekong, but there are others:
    http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/commodities/farmers-benefit-from-foreign-aid/story-fnkeqfxg-1226784665228

  50. .

    I said Australian businesses benefited enormously, I did not attribute the success of foreign investment by Australians to AusAID?

    So I asked you about trade.

    You still have no evidence.

    You are full of crap.

    The Doing Well by Doing Good report conducted for the Crawford Fund concludes that the return on investment for the $2.5 billion of aid directed into international agricultural research in the past three decades has been between $50 and $70 for every dollar spent, The Australian reports.

    This is hilarious. You would have to have either complete financial illiteracy or child like gullibility to believe this crap.

    If you can find an investment that pays 7000%, I have certainly more than bridges over the Mekong to sell you.

    “The Australian reports someone said x” is not evidence.

  51. Alf

    I wasn’t talking about trade Dot. Maybe you should look at Austrade for the answers you seek. The aid programme has a different purpose, and in delivering development assistance it benefits Australian companies and institutions. The bridges over the Mekong exist, one at Nong Khai and the other is in the Mekong delta – the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge and the My Thuan Bridge. I think it was John Holland that built both, but certainly the one at Nongkhai.

  52. Abu Chowdah

    siltstone… many years since I worked there but I well remember the feeling of being the only conservative in the APS (Labor) cult.

  53. Squirrel

    “Alf

    #1236938, posted on March 24, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    AusAID? Lol…

    There is no AusAID Dot, it’s all DFAT now. But when there was an AusAID Australian businesses benefitted enormously through contracts and project implementation.”

    So why will these benefits for Australian businesses not continue under the new administrative arrangements?

  54. MT Isa Miner

    Bruce of Newcastle

    #1236981, posted on March 24, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    I have no problem with AusAID personnel wanting perks. So long as they are hands on – delivering aid on the ground in remote PNG and Afghanistan.

    All AusAID personnel, including executive band, should do at least three months a year of this duty.

    Our PM does a week each year in Aboriginal communities and more time in volunteer fire fighting work. So why shouldn’t AusAID people do likewise, in their field?

    …. Even the high budgetary cost of Immodium would be well worthwhile.

    Bruce, I agree. Spoken like a man that plans ahead!

  55. Adrian

    anyone else thinking hunger games????

  56. JohnA

    Bruce of Newcastle #1236981, posted on March 24, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    I have no problem with AusAID personnel wanting perks. So long as they are hands on – delivering aid on the ground in remote PNG and Afghanistan.

    All AusAID personnel, including executive band, should do at least three months a year of this duty.

    I’m with you, and Mt Isa Miner. It should be a condition of holding their job. If they decline two hands-on stints in a row, then out the door, thanks!

    And the same should apply in the private sector – if you want to be CEO, then learn how to sell the company’s products door-to-door, take orders in the call centre, sit in the complaints department and cop the feedback, etc.

  57. .

    Adrian
    #1237917, posted on March 25, 2014 at 7:31 am
    anyone else thinking hunger games????

    LOL…that is how elections should work.

    As for our brain damaged friend, Alf:

    “I wasn’t talking about arms length trade or outward FDI, but I just know AusAID’s work benefited Australian firms, in as much as they can get 7000% ROI through AusAID, rooly, they can!”

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