Andrew Wilkie comments 'puerile, self-serving': Jeremy Hanson

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has said Andrew Wilkie's comments about the public service were best ignored while conceding thought bubbles from blow-in MPs about Canberra were frustrating. 

Ms Gallagher had remained quiet about Mr Wilkie's statement on Thursday that Canberra should no longer be Australia's public service hub but she was drawn into commenting by journalists on Friday. 

She said it was important for the territory not to become "too defensive". The territory's top politician said Prime Minister Tony Abbott's previous assurance to her Canberra would remain Australia's administrative home outweighed any plans independent MP Mr Wilkie proposed. 

"The more you talk about [Mr Wilkie's comments] the more you add weight to these silly ideas that come along," she said. 

"For me the frustration is MPs wander into this town and have these little thought bubbles and wonder how great it would be if you changed this or that with no regard for the people who live here. 


"To suggest you could fix some of the unemployment pressures in Tasmania by creating unemployment pressures here is certainly not someone who is looking at this from a rational point of view.

"My reaction when I saw the comments yesterday was to ignore them and not add any weight to them."

ACT opposition leader Jeremy Hanson sent a colourfully worded letter lashing federal MP Andrew Wilkie after the Tasmanian politician's "direct attack" on Canberra on Thursday.

Mr Hanson and Mr Wilkie share some common ground - both are former army officers who reached the rank of lieutenant colonel - but the letter shows it is unlikely they will be swapping tales about their days at Duntroon any time soon.  

"Your reported view that Canberra should no longer be Australia's public service capital is little more than Canberra bashing of the worst sort; puerile and entirely self-serving," Mr Hanson wrote. 

"I am aware that you have a long history of grandstanding on issues that you consider are to your own political advantage, regardless of the cost to the lives of those affected.

"Like most people I have learned it is best to ignore your statements.

"However, given your comments this time amount to a direct attack on Canberra, its people and its role, I have felt it important to respond.  

"I will not stand by while you advocate stripping Canberra for parts.

"I suggest in future you could demonstrate greater leadership as a member of the Australian Parliament by focusing more on what would provide good governance for Australia rather than personally motivated opportunism."

In the letter Mr Hanson said Canberra was established specifically to be the seat of government for good reasons.

"Maintaining the current ratio of public service numbers in Canberra is actually cost effective, it capitalises on Canberra's suitably skilled workforce and is the most effective location to provide good government," he wrote.

Mr Hanson has been writing to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his frontbench arguing against the relocation of Canberra's public servants. His public differentiation between the Canberra Liberals brand and the federal government comes after former territory senator Gary Humphries said earlier this year the local party should avoid being seen as "Abbott's foot soldiers". 

Mr Wilkie's comments on Thursday went further than even than the federal Coalition's view on dispersing public servants throughout Australia.

He said the Commonwealth public sector should be completely decentralised. In contrast the Abbott government's public service spokesman Senator Eric Abetz has committed to not undermining the ACT's status as the home of the bureaucracy. 

"The ACT has grown and it is a much different place," said Mr Wilkie, who added technology had reduced the need for a centralised workforce and said Tasmania had the strongest argument for public sector jobs to be imported.  

"There is no logical reason anymore why the ACT should be the centre of gravity for the federal public service."

MPs and city councillors across the nation, including many throughout northern Australia, are now lobbying for public service jobs to come in their general direction.  

Federal Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic, who holds the northern Tasmanian swing seat of Bass and was also a former army officer, said he had made submissions to senior members of his party to centralise all credit card processing functions across all Commonwealth departments in Tasmania.

Already a Defence Department base in Tasmania did much of this work and was equipped to take on similar functions with other departments, said Mr Nikolic.

The man who was once a first assistant secretary in Defence and spent many years in Canberra, however, said Canberra's status as the nation's administrative capital should not be threatened.


Comment are now closed