THE PUBLIC SERVICE IS GOING BUSH
“It’s time for the metropolitan monopoly on Australian Public Service (APS) jobs and public power to end” Jack Archer, CEO of the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) said this morning. Archer’s response to yesterday’s announcement by the Australian Government that it’s embarking on a decentralisation program comes on the back of the RAI’s research indicating that on a per capita basis, the APS spends four times more on wages in big cities than in regions.
“This is hardly a surprise given that 83 per cent of APS jobs are currently located in the big cities. Those located elsewhere are generally lower paid with little influence over government policies impacting regional Australians.”
In recent years, the growth of metropolitan inner cities has led to Australia’s leaders spending big on our largest capitals. Yet the housing affordability crisis, particularly in the metropolitan strongholds of Sydney and Melbourne, clearly demonstrates the need for government to look beyond the city and out into the regions.
“Concentrating public service employment in inner city areas only increases the affordable housing problem. It also means well paid and interesting careers in the public service are limited to those Australians who can afford to live there.”
In France, Finland, Ireland and the UK, the decentralisation of the Public Service has led to reduced inflationary pressures in the property and labour markets of capital cities. Archer believes there is no reason the same could not be achieved in Australia.
“For every additional 100,000 Australians who choose to live in regional rather than capital cities, the RAI estimates around $42 billion dollars will be released into the economy over the next 30 years through reduced interest payments on mortgages alone.
However, Archer also believes the government must show caution before “rushing headfirst into a one-size-fits-all policy position on decentralisation. The costs of change and disruption to public services occur in the first few years and the benefits take longer. If we make a change we need to stick to it. A ten-year, bipartisan strategy is needed to ensure this policy strengthens and secures our national economy and social infrastructure in the long term.
“Relocation is not always an effective response to economic problems in regional Australia. It can alleviate local economic weakness in the short term, but if the decision is reversed in the future it leaves regional centres high and dry with a gaping hole in the housing and labour markets.”
Whatever path the Government takes, Archer says it needs to consider regional Australia as an equal to our big cities in driving our national economy. “Our national leaders should reject this false choice of city over country and see our regions as equal partners in our housing and labour markets” he said.