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Decentralisation hit list: which Australian Public Service workplace will be next?

One thing's clear about the Nationals' plan to decentralise the bureaucracy: nothing is clear. There are neither rules nor much reason at present.

Frontbencher Fiona Nash said on Wednesday all government "departments" would need to justify why they, or at least why particular divisions or branches, should not move their staff from metropolitan cities to regional towns.

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The next day, party leader Barnaby Joyce had already exempted some workplaces (the Tax Office, the Treasury, the Finance Department and his own Agriculture Department) from leaving Canberra – before Nash had created the "template" that ministers would use to assess "which departments are suitable for decentralisation".

Yet even without that template, we can make some educated guesses about which workplaces will be targeted next.

The government released what could be seen as official decentralisation rules late last year when Finance Minister Mathias Cormann signed legislation that forced the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to move.

The rules, extrapolated beyond the agriculture portfolio, are pretty simple. If the workplace is a corporate Commonwealth entity, it should be based:

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  • in a regional town or city at least 150 kilometres by road from Canberra or a state capital (note: Darwin is OK); and
  • within 10 kilometres by road of the main campus of a university.

So which government workplaces might qualify for forced relocation under these rules? We put on our Nationals caps and came up with a top 10:

1. Australian Broadcasting Corporation

How could the Coalition resist moving the Ultimo head office to the sticks? Plenty of regional universities teach journalism ...

2. Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Most of its staff are in Canberra but it already has offices in Tamworth and Townsville. A shift should be a doddle.

3. Defence Housing Australia

Another agency with a large workforce in the ACT, though its work spans the country. It, too, has a small office in Townsville already.

4. Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation

About 450 staff in Belconnen. They really should be in Bendigo, right?

5. Australian Maritime Safety Authority

It's pretty hard to search for lost ships from Civic.

6. Director of National Parks

The staff probably hate Civic anyway; they're pining for the bush.

7. Murray-Darling Basin Authority

It was slated for relocation last year, and now has offices in Toowoomba, Albury and Adelaide, but most staff stayed in Canberra. Not for long ...

8. Indigenous Land Corporation

Why's the chief executive in Canberra, anyway? Off to Darwin – that might help the Country Liberals win back the seat of Solomon.

9. Tourism Australia

Headquartered in a Sydney skyscraper. Beautiful Bathurst is surely more practical.

10. Australian Human Rights Commission

The Coalition would enjoy shifting Professor Gillian Triggs to Lismore almost as much as it would enjoy closing the doors at Ultimo.