OPINION

Stop plundering Canberra

What can be done to persuade shortsighted Coalition MPs Canberra's public service jobs should not be used as a perverse currency to bribe voters in the regions?

Could anything be more insulting to our professional cadre of commonwealth administrators than to have them moved around like pawns on a continental chess board?

Where is the appreciation that many of those who have chosen to make a career in the APS have done so at the price of earning less than they might have in the private sector?

Where is the understanding that many public servants have put down deep roots in this city, made a commitment to the ACT and don't take kindly to being told their job has just been shipped to Armidale, Mildura, Griffith or Murray Bridge?

Has nothing been learnt from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority debacle in which the head office of an agency of national significance was shifted to the then Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce's, electorate?

While the outcome was electorally convenient for Joyce it was far from convenient for the APVMA's clients or for the majority of the staff who voted with their feet by staying in Canberra in other capacities.

The latest organisation to go under the pork barreling hammer is the Murray Darling Basin Authority, a body that already knows a lot about Mr Joyce's ad hoc decision making processes.

The plan is to relocate at least 76 of its people, more than a quarter of the 288-strong Canberra workforce, to the bush. Of these, 48 would go to Griffith and Mildura and 12 would go to Murray Bridge. The remainder would go to an as yet unnamed country town where we can only assume a Nationals MP is feeling unwanted and unloved.

Is the Coalition unaware that in addition to being the largest community in the Murray Darling Basin, Canberra is also the only capital city within its bounds? The basin itself takes in parts of four states, Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia, and all of the ACT.

The MDBA was originally headquartered here to set it apart from the factional squabbling that would have resulted from basing it in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide. Students of history would recall Canberra itself was established for much the same reason.

There is of course the chance that if the ALP is elected then the restructure may not ever see the light of day. The Opposition has already requested more information and indicated it would not support a repeat of the APVMA bungle.

This latest stunt is just another sign of panic from the Nationals who are desperate to shore up support in seats that are under challenge by One Nation and the UAP.

It comes from the same desperate place as the politically embarrassing, for the Prime Minister at least, push for a coal fired power station in Queensland and the latest mutterings about replacing Michael McCormack as Nationals Leader with Joyce.

This is yet another ill-concieved damaging attack on the national capital and the public service. Both deserve better from the federal government.