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

Date

Phillip Thomson

Federal MP Andrew Wilkie.

Federal MP Andrew Wilkie.

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. 

ACT opposition leader Jeremy Hanson.

ACT opposition leader Jeremy Hanson. Photo: Rohan Thomson

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.

33 comments

  • If Tony Abbott wants to 're-invent the wheel' where the public service is concerned, his impulsive and poorly thought through agenda will be a bumpy ride before it goes 'splat' and the then brought back into Canberra where the mis-shaped and damaged and ineffective wheel can be brought back to Canberra and restored to it's original condition.

    Commenter
    Frank
    Location
    ACT
    Date and time
    July 11, 2014, 10:59AM
    • While I applaud Hanson standing up for the Territory and national capital, what is equally as bad as Wilkie's comments are the absolute lack of comment on this issue coming from the Liberal Senator for the ACT. Where's Zed in this debate? Why isn't he standing up for Canberra? Isn't that what we pay him to do?

      Commenter
      Fix*d
      Location
      CBR
      Date and time
      July 11, 2014, 11:00AM
      • Zed has never stood up for Canberra. He only stands for himself. Gary Humphries would have rebuked Wilkie the same day.

        Commenter
        Mike
        Date and time
        July 11, 2014, 12:03PM
      • Zed 'standing up for Canberra'? Is that a joke? Zed has only ever stood up for one thing, and that's Zed. He's just as self-serving and lacking in vision as Wilkie.

        Commenter
        yumq
        Location
        cbr
        Date and time
        July 11, 2014, 12:10PM
      • Agreed. Since he's a territory senator with a 3 year term, at least we get the chance to boot him out next election. Suggest ACT Libs disendorse him asap and give us Humphreys back. Zed's dead.

        Commenter
        erko
        Date and time
        July 11, 2014, 12:25PM
      • I quite like the Pulp Fiction metaphor. Canberra voters as Marsellus Wallace. Zed, you may like to rethink your treatment of us.....

        Commenter
        erko
        Date and time
        July 11, 2014, 12:40PM
      • So where were Canberra’s Labor members (including the ACT Government members) when Labor was planning on cutting the APS during the leadup to the last election? They were very very quiet and inconspicuous on this topic.

        Commenter
        John
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        July 11, 2014, 3:52PM
    • Yeah and Abbott's pork barreling and talk of moving of PS jobs out of Canberra to Tasmania and the NSW North Coast, and anywhere else, is not puerile or self-serving?

      Although I don't agree with Wilkie either, the hypocrisy from the Liberal leader is shocking.

      Commenter
      Spin me round
      Date and time
      July 11, 2014, 11:12AM
      • At the same time, the Abbott government is axing public service jobs in Albury and moving the ones they don't outsource to Canberra.

        Commenter
        Mike
        Date and time
        July 11, 2014, 12:06PM
      • Yeah ' I will not stand by while you advocate stripping Canberra for parts.'

        But nothing wrong with Canberra stripping parts off the rest of Australia, particularly the
        money parts.

        Just to help Canberrans along, Hobart restaurants are quiet most nights not full like yours are every night. You wouldn't know that tassie is really struggling if you're living 'under the dome' of the ACT.

        Commenter
        j frank parnell
        Location
        los alamos
        Date and time
        July 11, 2014, 1:19PM

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