Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 May 2017) . . Page.. 1589 ..
an additional 244 public service jobs cut or 5.3 per cent of jobs at the Department of Health. As the Department of Health is based in Woden town centre, we can assume that this will mean more jobs lost there, and it is expected that there may be similar cuts in future years in the same department. This is on top of the cuts and relocations under the federal Liberal government in budgets past that have left commercial buildings empty in Woden town centre, or virtually empty. From June 2013 to December 2016, the Liberal government cut nearly 13,000 public service jobs. This means that one in 13 public servants have lost their jobs, and the budget confirms that there will be more.
It is one thing to cut the public service to the bone, as the Liberals do every time they take office, with devastating effect on our city, but it is quite another thing to actually undermine the whole underpinnings of the Australian public service and the establishment of Canberra. That is what the Liberal Party have done in government federally, declaring full-scale war last month on our national capital and its public servants, forcing our fundamental agencies of government to justify their continued existence in Canberra. As our member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann MP, has said, Sir Robert Menzies would be turning in his grave.
Aside from the ethical concerns regarding the undisguised pork-barrelling that this policy represents, decentralisation of government departments is just bad policy. First, the cost-benefit analysis does not stack up. We have seen the local example of the problems that decentralisation brings with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, the APVMA. The official cost of that authority’s relocation was $26 million, but federal Labor estimates this to be closer to $60 million.
Secondly, the Liberals’ relocation legacy to Canberra will also leave our public service haemorrhaging corporate knowledge with jobs and communities dislocated. We know this will happen because we have a really great example overseas where relocation policies have been pursued. The Republic of Ireland government actually attempted to pursue relocation out of Dublin over the past decade, and it was a complete disaster. The policy objective has now been abandoned as an abject failure for the same reasons that Labor has been putting forward in relation to the federal Liberal government’s current policy.
Decentralisation in Ireland badly damaged the civil service. According to a report on the review of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform organisational review program, decentralisation led to a major haemorrhaging of corporate knowledge. In some cases, key knowledge on some important national policies became dependent on a small number of key officials and, on occasion, just one public servant. It found that decentralisation also resulted in major staff churn or turnover. The turnover of staff was around two and a half times the number of posts earmarked for transfer. The resulting travel and subsistence costs, along with the time burden, were substantial. In some cases policy decisions resulted in staff in decentralised offices not having enough work. It also saw low morale amongst staff who had forgone promotion or sold property to avail themselves of decentralisation that had not gone ahead. Decentralisation impacted on internal shared understanding within the organisation,