Colour head shot of Katy Gallagher, current Minister for Finance.

Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher

Minister for Finance

APS Audit of Employment Reveals Coalition Shadow Workforce

Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Women


The Albanese Labor Government has delivered on an election commitment and has today released the findings of the Australian Public Service (APS) Audit of Employment.

The audit found that the APS workforce under the Coalition Government was 37 per cent larger, or 53,900 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers more, than the direct employment of public servants in the agencies during 2021-22 than the 144,300 public servants actually employed within the service.

The audit examined 112 APS entities that employ staff under the Public Service Act 1999 but excluded a number of agencies including the CSIRO, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and the parliamentary departments.

It was found that the predominate external labour employment type used by entities was Outsourced Service Providers (OSPs – which accounted for 68.9 per cent of total spending). Contractors and consultants accounted for 27.4 per cent of expenditure and labour hire around 3.7 per cent.

Key findings of the audit of agencies in 2021-22 include:

  • External labour formed almost 54,000 FTE positions on top of the reported APS headcount
  • The cost of external labour across consultants, contractors and labour-hire contracts was $20.8 billion
  • The cost of outsourcing government work was approximately 25 per cent of departmental expenses
  • 43 per cent of the total spending on external labour was in the area of ICT and Digital Solutions, 17 per cent related to Service Delivery, and 9 per cent related to Portfolio, Program and Project Management.

Minister for the Public Service, Senator the Hon. Katy Gallagher said the results of this audit painted the true picture of the APS workforce under the former Liberal/National Government.

“What we have uncovered is the extent of the former Coalition government’s shadow workforce that was plugging gaps in the APS created by their arbitrary cap on the number of government employees,” the minister said. 

“The Australian Public Service and those who work within it perform a critical role in our democratic system and should be valued by government.

“The approach of the former Liberal/National Governments undermined capability across the service, left many departments under-resourced.

“The Morrison Government maintained its artificial cap on public servant numbers, promoting a mirage of efficiency, but were at the same time spending almost $21 billion of public money on a shadow workforce that was deliberately kept secret.

“While the Coalition pretended to cap the size of the public service, they were signing contracts by the billions to outsource work that still had to be done.

“Payments still had to be processed, policies still had to be developed and Australians still had to be kept safe.

“But Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton went to great lengths to trick people into thinking this work could be done with a reduced workforce which now know wasn’t possible.

“Labor is committed to rebuilding the APS, its capability and ensuring that jobs that need to be done are delivered, where appropriate, by public servants.

“The Albanese Labor Government acknowledges that there is a role for external labour in the APS but where it is used it should provide a clear value add and not simply plug holes created by an ideological obsession to gut the APS,” the Minister said.

The report from the audit will be available on the Department of Finance’s website (

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