Thrifty government cuts free massages for bureaucrats

January 2, 2008 9:48:33 AM PST
Australia's new government has banned taxpayer-funded massages for pampered bureaucrats as part of an austerity drive, a minister said Wednesday. Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen said public service chiefs have been told that they and their staff must pay for their own back rubs in the new government's clampdown on public sector largesse and waste.

"There are lots of very hard working people ... working 12 hour shifts in factories as well who would love a back rub at the end of the day, I am sure. But they don't get one," Bowen told Sydney radio 2UE.

Bowen's Labor Party, which was elected to government on Nov. 24, has long railed against the free massages provided for some privileged public servants.

"There are lots of public servants that work very, very hard and they need to be rewarded, but we've taken the view that this is not an appropriate way of rewarding them," Bowen said.

The most recent figures produced in Parliament showed that bureaucrats spent $95,451 in public money on rub downs in 2004. While not all public servants are eligible for the perk, those that were spent an average of $176 for the year.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has established a task force to cut waste in a public service that he said became bloated during the previous government's 11-year rule.

The public sector massages cost up to $13 for 15 minutes.