ACT News


Abbott to move agency, but which one?

Mystery surrounds the identity of the public service agency the Coalition has earmarked for relocation from Canberra to the NSW central coast.

Campaigning in Gosford on Tuesday, Liberal leader Tony Abbott said if elected he would ''relocate'' a government agency, and up to 300 jobs, to the central coast town.

''Part of [the Coalition's] plan for a stronger economy is specifically targeted plans for regions that are struggling,'' Mr Abbott said.

But the Opposition Leader did not say which, if any, agency had been selected for the relocation process and his office did not respond to a request for more details.

In his announcement, Mr Abbott said the agency would act as an ''anchor tenant'' in the town's office market and bring 300 public service jobs to Gosford.

According to the Coalition's ''growth plan for the central coast'', sending a Commonwealth agency to Gosford would ''lead to direct employment within the agency and secondary employment through increased economic activity in cafes, retail shopping and other services''.


''The Coalition believes there is scope for appropriate Commonwealth agencies or functions to be relocated in whole or part from Canberra to regional areas, as will occur with the locating of the national disability insurance scheme in Geelong.''

Canberra-based staff of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry were told last week that several hundred of their jobs could be moved to regional Australia but it is unlikely that DAFF is the agency targeted by the Coalition for the Gosford move.

The Coalition's political opponents in the ACT seized on Mr Abbott's announcement on Tuesday, with Greens Senate candidate Simon Sheikh demanding the opposition identify which agency it intends to move. ''Canberrans are looking for answers. Where will these jobs be cut from? Health, education, defence?'' Mr Sheikh asked.

''Abbott cannot continue to treat Canberra like a political football. These are real people, real jobs, and Abbott's cuts will have a severe impact on not only those who lose their jobs but also small businesses and Canberra's economy.''

Mr Sheikh said Greens leader Christine Milne had written to Mr Abbott demanding to know which departmental positions would be moved to Gosford and the Northern Territory.

Labor MP for Fraser Andrew Leigh said Mr Abbott's move showed ''deep disrespect'' for the capital. ''Mr Abbott is again showing deep disrespect for Canberra,'' Dr Leigh said.

''I'm sure that every public servant working in an agency with about 300 people is going to go to bed tonight worried that they'll be one of those faced with the choice of relocate or lose your job.

''It's not good public policy and it's terrible people management.''


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