'Methodical': Nationals defend decentralisation push after Barnaby Joyce spray
Advertisement

'Methodical': Nationals defend decentralisation push after Barnaby Joyce spray

The Coalition says it will keep moving government jobs from cities into the regions in "a measured and methodical" way following a blasting from the project's champion Barnaby Joyce.

Nationals leader Michael McCormack has defended the Coalition's approach to its decentralisation policy, after his predecessor lashed his own's government's "bullshit" commitment to moving public servants to regional Australia.

Mr McCormack said his party was still focused on the project, despite federal budget papers this month revealing the government was pursuing it by sending some jobs to Adelaide and Parramatta, a fast-growing Sydney central business district.

A portrait of former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce hangs on the wall behind Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. The new party leader has defended the Coalition's commitment to decentralisation.

A portrait of former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce hangs on the wall behind Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. The new party leader has defended the Coalition's commitment to decentralisation. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

"Whilst there is always more work to do, any initiatives which enhance the government’s strategic policy focus on decentralisation – to not only grow regional communities but also decrease congestion in our cities and improve the quality of life and share economic opportunities more broadly - are always welcomed," the deputy Prime Minister said.

Advertisement

Mr Joyce has criticised the latest set of decentralisation projects, which he referred to as a "silly game" where the policy was technically, but not legitimately, being pursued.

Mr McCormack said the budget had built on the Coalition's recent moves to relocate government jobs.

"I understand there is more which can be done, and that’s something we are working on within the government," he said.

"As leader of the Nationals I am going to continue to keep working with the private sector to help encourage more jobs and opportunities for rural and regional communities, as well as supporting small and family businesses to grow, invest and hire more locals."

Liberal National MP and Regional Development Minister John McVeigh, overseeing the Coalition's decentralisation push, said the government would "continue to deliver a measured and methodical approach" to the project.

"A number of proposals are currently under consideration and we will report further progress on decentralisation later in 2018," he said.

Loading

Positions from the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations will move from Canberra to Darwin, some Prime Minister and Cabinet jobs will relocate from Melbourne to Shepparton, and the Unique Student Identifier Register will move from Canberra to Adelaide, budget papers revealed.

Some Human Services department staff will move from the Sydney CBD to Parramatta, and 12 jobs from the Infrastructure department will also relocate to the regions.

Mr Joyce argued a larger decentralisation approach was needed – linked with infrastructure investment and encouraging migration to rural and regional areas – and bemoaned the "very modest" existing commitment.

"What galls us is we see the word decentralisation and we go, 'beauty!', and they say we are moving a department to Parramatta and we go, 'bullshit'," he said.

"You can't decentralise to the centre. You have got to decentralise from the centre."

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud in February said the pesticides authority's move to Armidale would proceed, despite calls from Labor for the Coalition to renege after the resignation from the Nationals leadership of Mr Joyce, who started its troubled relocation to his electorate.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority was at the centre of controversy amid an exodus of staff, plummeting performance levels, and claims of pork-barrelling, however Mr Littleproud described it as a template for decentralisation.

Mr Joyce's former deputy leader, Fiona Nash, another strong advocate for an aggressive decentralisation strategy, was forced out of parliament during the dual citizenship crisis.

Doug Dingwall is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service and politics.

Most Viewed in Politics

Loading
Advertisement