The Accidental Anarchist, or, Why I Want To Sack Myself

Don’t read this if you’re not Australian, it’ll bore you silly.

On the other hand, don’t read this if you ARE Australian.  You’ll start sending me hate mail.

Here goes.  I used to work for the Federal Government.  If I fall on hard times, I may have to do it again.  One of the worst things about working for the government is, you get PAID a lot.  In fact, you get paid about three times what you’re worth.  In any other job, you work your arse off and you’re lucky to get $50,000 a year (I discovered today that this is what dentists working in the public sector get, when they’re just starting out).  Unless you drive trucks in Western Australia, in which case all bets are off – just don’t forget to put some aside for the Lear Jet.


When I worked for the Feds, I was paid $90,000 a year to do a day’s work a week.  Not only that, but I had to INVENT the work.  Our little team had to go round begging other areas of the agency for something to do.  SOME people, though, were busy.  They were busy – and still are busy – writing policies about how schools should be better run and hospitals should have more nurses and people who need wheelchairs should get more help.  Great – except in Australia, the people who RUN hospitals, schools and disabled services are NOT the Federal Government.  They just pay the State Governments (like say, in the US, Colorado or Iowa), who actually DO run these things.  Sometimes, the State Government then pays the local government (say, Mullumbimby Shire Council).

Jug Ears (aka our alternative prime minister) says that if he wins the next election, he’s going to sack a whole heap of federal public servants and just let the states do whatever they gotta do.  Cut out the middle man, in other words (and boy are there LOTS of middlemen).


Well, I feel sorry for the guys.  I wouldn’t want to be sacked, exactly.  On the other hand…why was I paid almost twice as much for one day’s useless paperwork as that starting dentist is for treating poor people’s kids’ rotten teeth? I was paid more than a teacher – custodian of half our kids’ waking hours.  I was paid more than a nurse in an old people’s home who cheerfully changes adult nappies and works in a constant haze of death, medication and wee.  I was paid MUCH more than an editor in a small creative magazine – which is why I decided, halfway through doing a professional writing degree, that fame and fortune were mutually exclusive (and dropped out).

I’m not denying that it’s the dearest desire of many public servants to be of use.  It’s just that, give an organisation an open line of credit – which is what any government is – and it will find ways to spend it.  No one is going to sack themselves.  No one is going to say ‘what I’m doing is pointless, for Christ’s sake stop paying me for it!’.

In Australia, a child with a mouthful of rotten, aching teeth can go months or even years without treatment because we can’t afford public dental cover.  An old age pensioner can starve to death while she waits for new dentures on the public purse. People have literally been known to pull their own teeth.  And we’re spending money on…policies?


  1. Oh God, i stopped after i read that you worked one day for $90K a year. What is wrong with the government … and or, YOU REALLY ARE AS GREAT AS YOU SAY 😉

    Rose, i’m coming back to read the rest. Just finding out why someone would want to sack themselves.

    Integrity? There’s something not often mixed with politics.

    BTW, is it true that you get full pension if you work for the government for ONE day? It’s that way in the US. In Chicago, for sure.

    I’ll be back, xoxox Hope you are doing well with things! mel

    1. Well, when I say one day – I got 90k for being there 5 days a week, most of the year, like everyone else, but the amount of stuff I had to do took one day a week, if that – so really they were just paying me for one day. Now I get much less, I really work my hardest, and I love it. Nah, I don’t think it’s true here. But here, everyone who hasn’t got enough to support them in their old age gets a pension, all at the same rate no matter what their job. It’s pretty low, though, so you’d want to have saved up something extra for your old age, otherwise you might end up knowing what cat food tastes like! hope you’re well too, Mel dear! xo


      1. You know Rose, i’m holding onto a job much like your past job. I have a LOT of freedom, and i truly like to work a lot harder than i do (most of the time). Unfortunately i don’t make $90K, but i do make a chunk. My job is fluxes with business. Our non-prof in adding a new service called Expedited Mediation-Arbitration for Unions and Companies. It’s not our usual philosophy of “pure” mediation, but it is marketable. So i assume this means lots of projects, organization and work for me. I miss the days of working long hours for this “cause”.

        Point is, there are good points to my flexible job: I can swim, paint, stalk dogs in the parks, and stay healthy (low stress … usually).

        I’m still thinking about buying a ranch with space for all different types of abused animals. I don’t think i could support this effort though. If you can’t keep up the proper care, you will not serve the animals well. That would be bad.

        Must say … i like the sound of getting a little pension if I run out of “fantasy ranch” money. 😉 Very charitable of Australia. Nice that you care for your people. xo

      2. There are lots of pluses to jobs like that. Personally I do like to work hard and feel like I’m doing something for someone. Flexibility was a huge plus to my old job. That ranch (well, it’s not called that here, but same dif) – that’s my dream, but I have the same worry as you. I was thinking I’d like to share it with someone or a family so they could help me look after things (maybe I could offer rent free, I was thinking).


      3. Regarding the “dream”. I’m investigating some “already established” farms/rescue projects.

        There was a dog grooming place called “Muddy Paws” in suburb of Chicago. The woman who owned the place also was housing runaways and abused animals. SHE ran out of money and the police found dead animals and filth in her HOUSE. Yes, she lived in the back of the “grooming facility”. She had a CHILD as well. It was a mess! She took on too much. Her house and storage was found to be overrun by animal poo, etc. Her ex-husband finally turned her in. It was so awful. … however i think she started out with the right intention. I could not end up that way … but in a way, i could see how that could happen.

        I’ll let you know what i find out from my human society magazine “all animals” about the various rescue champions around the world! I found this amazing woman in the Philippines who has done some wonderful work with domestic animals. There are other folks who do larger animals, etc. xo

    1. Ha! For 19 years, I didn’t, because of the stability, money, flexible hours and easy work. But I actually do want to contribute to something real and work hard for my money. CS is right, though, not everyone earns $90,000. Most of the Feds do, though, because most federal departments are top heavy – there are hardly any jobs for lower grade public servants any more.


  2. Rose, normally I respect your opinion, as you are a generally thought provoking, and offer a valid view, but I can’t this time.

    Shifting things to the states won’t fix a thing, not really. I used to be a state public servant (over 15 years), and before that a local government employee (just over 5 years), and I’ve worked for a state and a territory government, in the city and in country town, and as you know I now work for the Federal Government. And guess what, I was actually on more money then (when I worked for the State and Territory governments) than I am now as a federal public servant (relatively speaking). And yes, at first glance it seems to make some kind of sense to ‘cut out the middle man’, and to point the bone at the overpaid fat cats in Canberra. But in reality there are just as many overpaid fat cats in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and even Alice Springs or Darwin working for States and Territory governments.

    We shouldn’t use our own situations or experiences to generalise about the public service. Now I am not the biggest fan of what I do, or the public service in general, but the populist rubbish that Tony Abbott is pushing is just that, rubbish. Yes, we can and should have a leaner and more efficient public service. Yes, there are quite a few overpaid ones. But the problem is not confined to just the federal public service, its just an easier target to pick on. Also we need to have a rational debate about services and who should operate what, not an emotional and populist shouting match.

    ALso I think its a little unfair to compare the salary of a starting out dentist with a public servants wage, especially when you consider the earning potential of a good dentist, or doctor, or other medical professional. The salary you quoted ($90k) is for a reasonably well paid Executive level (EL1) public servant. The average public servant (even today) is not an EL1, they actually around the APS5 to APS6 level, and much closer to your average of $50k than they are to $90k.

    Now yes there are some industry segments that are unfairly underpaid, or paid less than the average public servant, but it’s not really fair, kind of like comparing apples and beetroots etc.

    I am not denying that there are genuine issues with health care and services to the aged and disabled in Australia, not at all. But sacking a few thousand public servants won’t fix that problem. Making our governments, politicians,and the senior executives of agencies accountable for some of the failure of funding to provide adequate services, now maybe you are starting to address the problems and inequities.

    Capt. Savage

    1. Rose, to clarify where the EL1 level staff sit, according to the last Public Service ‘state of the service’ report, EL1 and EL2 level staff (combined) make up only 26% of the public service, see,-continued/

      THe bulk of Public Service Staff are at the APS 3/4 (33%) and APS 5/6 (35%), or a total of around 70% of the total staff.

      You were fortunate being an EL1, the rest of the public service (over 75% when you include graduates, trainees, APS 1-6 staff) would have loved to have been earning as much as you were earning.

      Only the Senior Executive would have looked down on you, and they make up only 2% of the total Public Service.


      1. Even when I was a 6, I was earning way more than most useful people do. Really, I have no sympathy for public servants carrying on about not being paid enough – they don’t do anything anybody really needs or wants, by and large. With some exceptions. (you, maybe?) And my friend S, of course!!


    2. Well, I respect that you’ve got broad experience, but I think you’re not seeing the wood for the trees. I don’t agree with Abbott sacking a whole heap of public servants at once – it’s not their fault they’re overpaid and underworked, it’s the system. I wouldn’t call them ‘fat cats’. It’s the system. Yes State public servants (and local ones) stuff about too. But here’s the thing. Federal public servants and state public servants stuff about busying themselves on the SAME things. Feds write policies on health. States write policies on health. Why do we need both? Why can’t local government just deliver ‘health’? The problem – or at least part of it, as I see it – is that people pay taxes so the government (at three levels!) can do stuff. When the government does less stuff, do people pay less taxes? No. When the government does stuff people don’t want done, do people pay less taxes? No. Do public servants ever advise government, ‘I’m not needed here, maybe you should spend the money on something more direct’? Of course not. YOU know yourself how at the end of every year, each little section of the service tries to spend up their budget so they don’t look like they underspent and don’t need the money. Even if…they DON’T need the money. But whose money is it? Ours. I know I sound like a wacky republican. No I don’t think there should be screaming and shouting in the streets. But I do think we should revise this model – it makes no damn sense.


      1. Ok I can’t argue that the federal model in Australia is flawed. We do have overlapping and duplicated services, and yes there needs to be changes. But the answer isn’t to just bag out the workers, it is to fix the system! As a former state govt employee I think there is no need for half the bureaucracy that exists, especially in health and aged care, disability services, indigenous affairs, child care, in fact all of the primary care and support services. I don’t think it matters who delivers the services as long as just one level of government does it, and does it well. But I also think it is useful to have some federal involvement to ensure uniformity in standards across the states and territories. And yes public servants do advise people ‘I’m not needed here’, I’m one of those people, and did so actively as the senior health advisor in one role and while I was the senior indigenous affairs advisor in another role. And who didn’t want change? Who wanted to storm in and take over healthcare and indigenous affairs from the states, the politicians (by the way it was John Howard and Tony Abbott) and the apologists for the politicians, the senior executives in the public service. so ok Rose, I agree we need reform, but don’t assume we, the employees, are the problem. Maybe a few politicians like Tony Abbott should look in the mirror and remember that they set up and supported the current model, accept some blame, don’t just blame the workers, CS

  3. Well said Capt. Savage.

    Respectfully Rose, I am not on the same page as you on this one either. I too am a public servant and have been for 11 years now. Sure, there are some parts of the public service that used to be way over staffed but that has changed drastically over the last 10 or so years. In my current job, I work solidly for the 8 hours or so that I work per day. In my previous position (and the one before that too) I worked like a dog for up to 12 hours a day… no overtime, eating lunch at my desk while still working, no time in lieu to make up for the regular 4-8 hours a month that I travelled for work on my own time… and on it went. If I chose, I could have got a private sector job doing similar work and earned a packet… but I choose to serve the public, and be close to my family and friends.

    Rose, you may have been working in a job where your many talents were under appreciated and under utilised (more of a reflection on the poor management skills of your boss maybe?), but in my experience this is the exception to the rule in the public service nowadays (at the federal level… who knows what they do in the state governments).

    Nevertheless, I agree with you that successive governments have hacked away at funding for our universal public health system leaving it under funded and unacceptable. This is the issue, in my opinion.

    I think more interesting questions concerning the uses of public monies and how we collect monies to fund public spending revolves around taxation breaks for wealthy individuals and highly-profitable industries and thinly-disguised middle-class welfare such as overly generous and inefficient subsidies for solar power installations etc… all paid for by those who cannot dodge paying their fair share of tax.

    1. Actually, you’ve convinced me – I know you do work hard, and you’re dedicated and serious about it, and it’s necessary stuff. I’m not saying everything the feds do is pointless (though it may seem that way). Just about 70% of it. I do think there’s a fundamental issue with the way government uses money – sometimes wisely, but often, it splurges, because it can. Middle class welfare – well I like receiving it, but I agree with you – why the hell should I! I can look after myself, give it to those who can’t. It’s a bribe, naturally – one that no government can take back, cause of the howls of outrage from middle class families ‘doing it tough’. Oooh I think I’m getting right wingers disease…better see someone!


  4. First I thought ‘Awesome, I’m Australian, I can read this!’, then I thought, ‘Can’t read this…’

    Are you truly, truly serious – ONE day’s work a week begging other depts for something to do, for $90,000? OMFG. I wonder what your resume contains that has them invite you in. Mine’s fairly basic, & I’ve never held any job longer than 2 years because I get bored!! And I’m talking MY WHOLE LIFE THUS FAR!

    Wow, this is very well said. I didn’t know ‘jug ears’ – ha ha : I had not actually noticed until you said that – didn’t know he was going to sack the middle’men’, meLady, but that doesn’t sound like any solution because won’t he have to give bundles &$ bundles &$ bundles of retrenchment $packages$?

    Didn’t hear this one…

    I’m just so impressed by your ex-salary!

    1. When I say one day, I should explain I was full time – but the actual work only took me one day (and that was stretched out to cover a week). Oh yeah, I know what you mean, I get bored too ! I hate Abbott (jug ears) and I agree about the retrenchment packages, and anyway I think any reduction of the public service should be gradual, because it’s not the workers’ fault that their work is pointless and over-remunerated.


      1. Ha ha – yes, not the workers’ faults.

        Funny how Abbott got famous for his budgie smugglers because just a imagine a female politician being ‘famous’ for her bikini. I found it all a bit odd, and I sensed he doesn’t mind it a bit.

  5. Why should you have public dental cover? Why should people who work’s taxes be used to pay for benefits for those who don’t work? This is my basic argument against Obamacare – I pay for my own medical insurance, I work hard to be able to do it and I don’t want to be taxed extra so that LaTonqua in Memphis or Lurleen in Tulsa can keep squeezing out babies to stay on welfare.

    That said, from what I have seen, when it comes to electing left wing governments you Aussies usually do okay – that guy you had a few years back, Keating, he seemed like a badass – so maybe we could learn something from the way you manage the common weal.

  6. I’m not going to “go there” on politics, esp. Oz politics, since I’m an American, but the picture of the strip mine, any strip mine, or pit mine, or whatever you want to call them, kinda sickens me. I know it’s the most efficient way, but future generations have to look back at us and say, “Really? Really? You thought this was a good thing to do to the Earth?”

    1. Oh yeah, lots of crappy things are done to the earth – it’s awful to think about. Mind you, the mining companies are SUPPOSED to return it to its natural state eventually, I believe – which is kind of desert scrub. Though, what do I know – I’ve never been there. Australia’s riding high on the mining boom, cause we have got heaps of stuff in the ground. It’s why we’re sitting pretty and the rest of the developed world is going down the plughole. But woe betide us when our strip mines run out.


  7. Seb could maybe think about this – minimum wage in Australia is as high as median wage in the US, you get free hospital care, subsidised medicines, no limit on unemployment benefit, and as high a proportion of Australians work as in the US, and they do not pay more in tax. Looking after one another has some costs, but more benefits.

    As for public servants, the lower ones are paid more than private enterprise, the high ones much less. It balances – social security delivers payments to all kinds of people (pensions, sick benefit, unemployment and so on) at less admin cost than the banks.

    1. It’s true that most Australians are a lot better off than most Americans (luckily, most Americans don’t realise it, otherwise they’d be boarding the boats with the other refugees). I don’t mind the amount of tax we pay, personally. But we still do have a lot of needy people, and I object to money being wasted while those people are suffering. I really am not bagging public servants – I just think that the money could be better spent.


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