The Turnbull government has launched a new push for government departments to move to the regions, with ministers to report back by August on which agencies would be suitable.
As the controversial decision to relocate the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s electorate continues to create headlines, Fiona Nash has revealed more moves are in the coalition’s sights.
The regional development minister will by mid-year develop a template for ministers to assess which other public servants could also be relocated.
“All portfolio ministers will be required to report back to cabinet by August on which of their departments, functions or entities are suitable,” she told the National Press Club on Wednesday.
Business cases would have to follow by December.
The minister said there would be cost-benefit analyses conducted for all agencies involved, but she was hesitant to say whether the findings would be made public.
“My expectation is that it would be, but clearly that’s not a decision just for me,” she said.
Senator Nash insists moving government bodies to the regions means more people in regional towns, shops and more volunteers for the local fire brigade.
It is also a smart tactic in the housing affordability battle as it relieves pressure on capital cities and creates the lure of quality careers in the country, she said.
Asked what the government could do to ensure agency relocations weren’t dismantled by a future government, Senator Nash said she was hoping for a level of bipartisan support.
“We are not talking about doing radical things. We are talking about making sensible and balanced decisions about investing in regional Australia and decentralisation being part of that,” she said.
“I would hope all good and sensible colleagues in other parties would have that same view as well.”
The deputy Nationals leader also outlined how the government was working with business to discuss ways of encouraging companies to relocate.
Last week she talked to business groups about corporate decentralisation.
Ideas raised during the meeting included mapping out regional populations and what services are available to help employers find areas they could relocate to.