Wednesday, May 18, 2011

move public servants to regions only if cost-effective?

Gene Tunny at Queensland Economy Watch has posted a warning today on the merits of moving public servants from Brisbane to Cairns. KS has commented on this before as a pet-shop-parrot-policy, surprisingly coming from supposed champions of free enterprise in the LNP, and being thoughtlessly spruiked as a "good idea".

"There is a major risk that Opposition Leader Campbell Newman’s decentralisation plan to move Queensland public servants out of Brisbane CBD and into the regions – particularly Cairns, Maryborough, and Gympie – would eventually result in an overweight and inefficient public service. With public servants underpinning regional economies, Governments would be very reluctant to cut the public service fat that accumulates from time-to-time.

Hence, if he becomes Premier, Mr Newman would be well advised to commission an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of relocating the public service to the regions. My intuition is that there may be gains from relocating public servants out of Brisbane CBD and to suburban hubs such as Toowong and Mt Gravatt, but that mass relocations to the regions would not be cost-efffective."

KS is in full agreement with Tunny that it only makes sense if it stacks up on its own merits and NOT as some kind of economic stabilisation policy. There have already been suggestions Federally of more closely tying State funding to efficiency and service delivery criteria.

The idea was included again yesterday at the Journal of Ignorance, this time from solicitor Russell Beer, among an array of special regional handout requests from local business leaders. Brett Moller again displayed why he is also a solicitor and not an economist with a call for "special allowances up here".

A few weeks back KS flipped through the last census data which showed that the Far North already has a high representation of public sector employees relative to other Queenssland regions. Yes, Townsville is higher, mainly because of Federal employees in the military and ATO. Trying to replicate the Townsville model as a policy for other regional centres is nonsensical.

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