The junior coalition partner is leading a push to take high paying government jobs out of Canberra and send them to regional Australia.
The Get Out of the City was launched by the National Party recently in an effort to drum up support for moving public sector departments and large-scale agencies out of the nation’s capital.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce launched the campaign and has pushed for public submissions into the current senate inquiry into relocating Commonwealth agencies.
Could the Murray-Darling Basin Authority be sent to Shepparton? Could the Australian Bureau of Statistics be sent to Bendigo?
According to Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum, the sky is the limit.
Mr Drum has long pushed for the MDBA to move base to Shepparton and he believed that decentralisation should not stop at agencies that had a ‘‘regional’’ focus.
‘‘I have been outspoken in my thinking that the MDBA would be a good fit for Shepparton, but it does not have to stop there,’’ Mr Drum said.
He pointed to the decision of the Victorian Government to move the bulk of the operations of the State Revenue Office from its plush Melbourne headquarters to Ballarat in 2001 as an example.
‘‘(Tax collection) has nothing to do with Ballarat, but it gave Ballarat a boost when it came to those high paid, well-credentialed jobs,’’ he said.
The move for large-scale decentralisation of government jobs was pushed hard by Mr Joyce before the election with his promise to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to within his own electorate in Armidale, NSW.
The move was strongly rejected by public servants at the authority, with just a handful supporting the move, and the relocation has caused its own problems.
Last week it was revealed in senate estimates that APVMA staff were forced to work out of a McDonald’s in Armidale as no building was available for the workers.
Committee for Greater Shepparton chief executive Sam Birrell believed the city would be a good fit for Canberra public servants if they were forced to relocate.
‘‘A lot of people underestimate the ability of regional towns to attract and accommodate professional people,’’ Mr Birrell said.
‘‘Shepparton is a sophisticated regional city with all the amenities of the larger cities, but with a sense of country friendliness.’’
He pointed out that other businesses, including hospitality and professional services would likely benefit if more Commonwealth jobs were to come to town, and that public servants would be amazed at how far their dollar could go in Shepparton.
‘‘To those professionals I would say go on to realestate.com.au and look at what $500000 can get you in Shepparton, compared to Canberra, or Sydney or Melbourne,’’ he said.
■To make a submission, go to www.getoutofthecity.com.au
- Barclay White