Labor’s Spokesperson for Regional Services, Stephen Jones says there will be two tests to determine if the Turnbull Government’s new decentralisation policy is anything more than a cruel hoax on regional communities:
Will they call a moratorium on regional job cuts in Commonwealth Government services; and
will they put money in the budget to fund it.
We know from the experience of the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, that decentralisation of government agencies comes at a high cost.
For the APVMA, an agency of almost 200 staff as of June 2016, this policy will cost tax payers up to $60 million.
Decentralisation is an empty promise for regional and rural Australians unless the Government puts money up for it and stops sacking existing workers in regional towns.
We only have to look at the APVMA example to see that the relocation of this agency resulted in almost 50 per cent of staff resigning, including a significant proportion of highly trained specialists, and will take up to seven years to rebuild the workforce.
The Turnbull Government is being hypocritical on regional jobs. It’s track record on public sector jobs shows that it has cut nearly 18,000 jobs across the Department of Human Services, Australian Tax Office and CSIRO, many of which are based in regional Australia.
This includes 200 ATO staff sacked in Townsville. Further there have been almost 150 jobs lost in various regional ATO offices, including towns such as Cairns, Grafton, Port Macquarie and Launceston.
If the Coalition is committed to regional jobs, it could start by putting back the jobs in regional Australia that have been cut in the last couple of years.
The real test of this policy will be the numbers in next week’s Budget papers.