Past government pushes to the bush flopped At a meeting of the Royal Society in the 17th century, British antiquarian John Aubrey, was told that the duke of Orlans "had a way of producing animals from the putrefaction of vegetables".
By way of a complementary experiment, the diarist John Evelyn, also a member of the society, was asked, according to Aubrey, to put "several pieces of flesh and some blood in a closed vessel that could not be fly blown to see what could be produced". The duke's belief and Evelyn's experiment bring to mind aspects of federal government policy where rational considerations of the public interest seem to be subordinated to strange influences on Malcolm Turnbull. $25 30 billion of tax cuts for small and medium sized businesses, which are unlikely to do anything or, at best, very little for wait for it "jobs 'n growth", and which Treasurer Scott Morrison justifies on what he hears in beer drenched pubs. In terms of priorities, it's more than likely that $25 30 billion spent on "education 'n transport" would do much more for "jobs 'n growth"; negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions, to which the government has thus far turned a blind eye in its struggle to find ways of easing pressures on house prices; and adherence that can't be fairly and reasonably measured to "Australian values" as part of citizenship requirements. Oh, how hard it is to tolerate lectures on values from Turnbull, who seems to have his in suspension, or Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, whose values louis vuitton bags 1999 fair dinkum Aussies may think unworthy of emulation. Those seeking citizenship should be able to demonstrate an ability to live within the law and the values it embodies, but the Turnbull Dutton overlay is horseshit, as it might be hoped their public service advisers have pointed out. The Public Sector Informant: latest issue From the early 1970s until the mid 1980s, concentrated whole of government attention was given to the location of federal public sector organisations. It was stimulated by a desire to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the public service by co locating many of its agencies in Canberra, especially the central offices of departments, and by the Whitlam government's intentions to aid the growth of regional centres, in part by including more bits of the administration in them. An impressive coordination machinery was established, including a secretary level interdepartmental committee. The government developed and endorsed guidelines for allocating units to Canberra and regional centres in 1975. Studies were made of suitable functional groupings, patterns of communication, reporting and coordination, and the capacity of regional centres to cater for government agencies. Unions and staff were consulted on conditions of employment for those who would be transferred. In 1975, almost 4000 staff from the Tax Office, the health insurance, children's and schools commissions, the Bureau of Meteorology and other organisations were identified for moves to Parramatta, Dandenong, Albury Wodonga, Bathurst Orange and Geelong. Eventually, however, the Fraser government decided not to proceed with most of these transfers "on the basis of cost and priority", and decided that any policies to foster growth centres would "not include transfers of staff from Canberra". The transfers of functions to Canberra, especially the central offices of departments (at least one of which had been split between Sydney and Melbourne), went ahead and were notably successful. At the time, prime minister Malcolm Fraser said they "underline the strength of the Commonwealth's commitment to Canberra as the seat of government" and "the efficiency of administration and the standard and responsiveness of advice it receives will be enhanced by these moves". A now largely forgotten report, written a couple of years ago by former Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Professor Peter Shergold, urged governments to learn from its administrative failings and, by implication, its successes. It's to be hoped that officials now advising the government on its "decentralisation program" are combing through files on the extensive experience of the 1970s and '80s, learning from it and telling ministers. If they're not, perhaps they should be lined up for moves to, say, Goodooga (NSW) or Smifton (Tasmania). Under Nash's program, the starting point for ministers will be a negative argument about why they shouldn't be in a region. The decision is classic pork barrel politics. It was not part of a wider administrative strategy and there's no evidence its implications were given more than cursory thought. It has not withstood a retrospective cost benefit analysis. No amount of Joycean bluster (and there has been an avalanche of it) has been able to provide the faintest, rational justification for his decision. She said: "Moving government functions to the regions means more people in our towns, more customers in our shops, more students in our schools, and more volunteers in the local fire brigade." Of course, it also means fewer people, customers, students and volunteers in places where the government functions are moved from. Whateverthe good or ill done to cities, towns and regions should be an entirely secondary consideration in the location of government functions. Nash says that, by the middle of the year, she will set out "criteria for government ministers to assess which departments, functions and entities in their portfolio are suited to decentralisation", and ministers will be "required" to report to cabinet by August on which bits of their empires should be on the move. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will also develop a "template for business cases for decentralisation". The turbulence caused by Nash's speech was sufficient to get Joyce out to try to calm troubled spirits. He said: "You will have the vast majority of government, your taxation department, Treasury and Finance will be in Canberra." What Joyce doesn't seem to appreciate is that the "vast majority of [federal] government" staff between 70 and 80 per louis vuitton alma vernis gm cent are not now in Canberra. Rather they are spread around the country and many of them in "regional Australia". Think of the military in, for example, places like Wagga, Richmond, Williamtown, Darwin, Katherine Tyndal, Amberly (Queensland), Edinburgh (South Australia), Puckapunyal, Swanbourne, Karratha, Jervis Bay Nowra, Holsworthy, Singleton, Oakey, Cairns, Townsville, Canungra, East Sale, Stirling (Western Australia) and Bullsbrook, among other places. The omens for what Nash has been "tasked" with are unpromising. In December last year, that beacon of common sense, Cormann, signed an order specifying that a "Commonwealth entity with agricultural policy or regulatory responsibilities" is to be in a "regional community"; such a "community" being defined as used louis vuitton on amazon one "not within 150 kilometres by road of Canberra or the capital city of a state". It's a mystery why Cormann would sign up to such arbitrary policy precluding the proper consideration of the location of government agencies on their merits. If Cormann were to retain the policy in his "order", any "template for business cases for decentralisation" would not be worth a cracker. Still, the thinking behind the order is the thinking permeating Nash's advocacy of the "decentralisation program". Her near exclusive focus is on using the placement of government functions to benefit regions, and ministers will need to "actively justify. why all or part of their operations are unsuitable for decentralisation". She has it around the wrong way. In considering where they should set up shop, the starting point for sensible organisations, public or private, is what location is most likely to ensure their efficient and effective operation. Under Nash's program, the starting point for ministers will be a negative argument about why they shouldn't be in a region. There's little sign Nash has been made aware of, or reflected on, the experience of the 1970s and '80s, in particular why proposed transfers to regional areas fell in a heap and why those to Canberra went ahead. Indeed, she now seems intent on following a course that was abandoned for good reasons (moves to regional centres) while unpicking arrangements that were successful (the transfers to Canberra). Part of the reason for the success of the Canberra transfer program was that it established the town as a significant regional centre the very thing Nash now wants for other places. Thus, she would do better to concentrate on moves from the state capital cities, which are larger and plagued with congestion unknown in the ACT. Moreover, units of Commonwealth administration in the state capitals are not so involved in policy formulation and advising as their compatriots in Canberra, where the need for close working relations are at a premium. If that happens to be in Canberra, Coonabarabran or Cooktown, so be it. Placing bits of the bureaucracy in regions may profit those areas. However, if that incurs significant costs and adversely affects the workings of relocated agencies, it will damage old friend "jobs 'n growth" in the economy as a whole. More generally, Nash's tactics might not suit her interests. In providing criteria for decentralisation together with a "template for business cases" against which ministers will report back to cabinet, she may find herself on the back foot. That is to say, she's providing all of her colleagues with more than ample scope, possibly aided and abetted by their officials wishing to remain in situ, to come back with all sorts of reasons as to why their empires should remain exactly where they are. She may have been better off if the government had set up a cabinet committee on decentralisation served by a group of officials from committee members' departments. The committee could have identified parts of the administration that might be moved from all of the state capitals and Canberra to regional areas, and then consulted affected ministers before putting a recommendation to the full cabinet. This would have given her greater control of the process and would have avoided her taking on all ministers. Anyway, that's too late now.
On the other hand, the politics of moving government functions from Canberra to the regions, on one level, is in Nash's favour. Why, she put a front page from The Canberra louis vuitton shoes saks Times with a banner headline saying her program was a "war on Canberra" on Facebook. Her electors may have been delighted.
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