Dream less, plan better

October 05, 2017

Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum would like the Murray Darling Basin Authority to move from Canberra to Shepparton.

Decentralisation is one of those buzzwords that is likely to excite politicians and send everyone else to sleep.

The word has popped up again and again in the headlines in the past year as the Federal Government has again pushed to re-adjust out lopsided populations.

The Nationals have been leading the push within the government and various MPs have used it to try and bring plush government jobs to their area.

The argument goes that with today’s interconnected workplaces it makes less and less sense to base most of our federal public service and massive government departments in the nation’s capital.

Instead, we should move a department here and there, and use it to boost employment and the economies of regional centres across Australia.

The deputy prime minister has already led the push when he ordered the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority move from Canberra to Armidale, which conveniently sits in his own electorate of New England.

Public servants with lives based in Canberra were not happy about the move and the boss of the authority Kareena Arthy even handed in her resignation amid the tensions.

Sceptics could look at the push to move big departments as a form of pork barrelling by regional MPs to boost jobs just by shuffling some paper.

Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum would like the Murray Darling Basin Authority to move from Canberra to Shepparton, which he argues would bring the decision-makers closer to the farmers and irrigators they serve.

Other regional-based MPs have also said the basin authority should in fact move, to their own electorates.

There is probably a sensible argument to move some of the public services away from Canberra and across the regions, but it needs to be justified financially.

If the push of decentralisation is legitimate, the government must realise moving a handful of government jobs is a drop in the ocean to what is needed.

The real challenge is encouraging families to move away from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane and moving to a regional area.

It is encouraging young school leavers in regional Australia to stay locally and not just leave for the city as soon as possible.

It is about encouraging businesses to set up, or expand in regional Australia to boost jobs in our regions and not our overcrowded cities.

There are no easy decisions a government can do to encourage this, but it is something that Australia will need to tackle if we want to make sure our nation is not dominated by a few overcrowded cities.

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