ABC AM: Decentralisation





SUBJECTS:  Decentralisation, public service, Townsville

HOST: The North Queensland city of Townsville is touting to become the home for any Federal Government Departments that are moved out of Canberra. Community leaders say it would help the local economy but they also want assurance that staffing problems at existing Government agencies will be fixed, Katherine Gregory reports.


KATHERINE GREGORY ABC REPORTER: Townsville is one of the many regional centers across Australia that could soon host more Federal Government agencies and bureaucrats. Troy Popham from the Townsville Chamber of Commerce is excited about the potential economic benefits.


TROY POPHAM TOWNSVILLE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Townsville has done it quite tough the last couple of years given we had the QNI debacle, the mining slow down and the economy is definitely in transition and opportunities can flow out of that. So Townsville is used to having Government base in relation to our defense installations that are here, so further expansion of that base could be comfortably housed.


KATHERINE GREGORY: Federal Ministers have until August to justify whether their agencies should stay in big cities or be moved to regional areas under the Turnbull Government’s Decentralisation plan. Troy Popham says Townsville could cater for a population boost if the Commonwealth also invests in infrastructure as outlined in the white paper on developing Northern Australia.


TROY POPHAM: It’s those type of infrastructure assets along with water security, you know, effectively priced electricity, these are the types of things that you need to have in place to convince people that are living in the South to say well okay this is the place to go.


KATERINE GREGORY: Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill supports the Government plan in principle but wants more detail so the city can put forward its business case.


JENNY HILL TOWNSVILLE MAYOR: What we really want at the moment is a hearing. There are a number of agencies that could be moved up here, there are areas of defense that we think could come to Townsville, and Indigenous Affairs we think should be located outside of Canberra as well.


KATHERINE GREGORY: But Councilor Hill is not convinced Townsville will get what it wants.


JENNY HILL: In the eighties we saw an increase in Government Departments here in Townsville, what we have now is a decline. We’ve seen agencies when they have been asked to cut staff; they’ve tended to cut from the region.


KATHERINE GREGORY: Federal Labor Spokesmen for Regional Services, Stephen Jones, makes a similar point.


STEPHEN JONES FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WHITLAM: Since 2014 the Coalition have been busy cutting Government jobs from regional Australia. In Townsville alone in the tax office they have cut two hundred jobs since 2014. I am all for creating opportunities in regional Australia but the Government should lead by example and that involves a moratorium on cutting jobs in regional Australia before they consider moving jobs to regional Australia.


HOST: Federal Labor Spokesman for Regional Services, Stephen Jones ending Katherine Gregory’s report.