Treasurer tight-lipped on Vic public service job cuts

·3-min read
Julian Smith/AAP PHOTOS

Job cuts to Victoria's public sector to combat the debt-ridden state budget haven't been ruled out but a projected return to surplus is not in jeopardy.

The public sector is bracing for savage job cuts after the Victorian budget is delivered on Tuesday and Treasurer Tim Pallas has done little to quell those fears.

Preparing to hand down his ninth budget, Mr Pallas on Wednesday said the Andrews government was looking at ways to better manage how public money was spent.

"It is critically important the taxpayer have confidence that as a government we're deploying the effort and the resources of the state - the taxpayer dollars - to the areas that they rate as being important," he said.

"They will see that demonstrated in this budget."

Victoria's public sector wage bill is forecast to reach $37 billion for this financial year before rising to more than $40b in another three years.

Mr Pallas would not say whether the government would set a target for the number of jobs to go.

"All of that will be revealed in the context of the budget," he said.

The Community and Public Sector Union said government departments have been told to prepare to cut 10 per cent of ongoing staff to help the budget to a surplus in the fourth year.

"What a bunch of Labor pretenders," a CPSU spokesman said.

"They're targeting ongoing jobs and relying on insecure workers to fiddle forward estimates but departments have to work through Department of Premier and Cabinet guidance that'll come after the budget on how a cut this size can be achieved.

"The service will not accept this attack on secure work and will return the favour at every opportunity."

The number of Victorian bureaucrats earning more than $500,000 has tripled since 2019, Shadow Treasurer Brad Rowswell said.

"This is not the reality of Victorian families. We're paying more, we're getting less. We deserve better," he told parliament.

Mr Pallas rebuffed suggestions it would be a horror budget but conceded it would be very difficult given the economic climate and state of Victoria's finances.

"Just as households are encountering difficulties in managing their household budgets because of high inflation and rising interest rates ... that is having an impact on the government's balance sheet," he said.

Victoria's net debt is predicted to hit $165.9b by mid-2026, with annual interest repayments tipped to rise from $3.86b to $7.32b across the next four years.

Before Victorians went to the polls late last year, the pre-election budget update forecast the state would post a modest $894 million return to surplus in 2025/26.

Economic forecasts will be updated next week but Mr Pallas confirmed the projected surplus was not under threat from rising interest repayments on the state's mounting debt.

The treasurer also refused to rule in or out more funding for the 2026 Commonwealth Games in regional Victoria or extra cost of living relief for struggling families.

Greens treasury spokesman Sam Hibbins said it would be an absolute disgrace for the government to deliver an austerity budget with Victoria in the grips of a cost-of-living crisis.

"There is a clear pathway for them in the upcoming budget and that is to make profiteering corporations pay their fair share," he said.