OPINION: Barnaby Joyce is right about relocating public servants to regions

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has come under fire for expressing one of the most radical ideas in the history of Australian government.

He thinks public servants should actually live near the public they are supposed to serve.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced that all departments must justify their continued presence in Canberra and other capital cities or face a forced move to regional Australia.

Relocating departments makes sense – it boosts regional economies while diverting pressure away from stretched big city resources.

But more importantly, policymakers would gain firsthand experience of the policy problems they avoid when living in their leafy coastal enclaves.

The outcry from the public service has been swift. Never before have we seen such prompt, timely responses from Canberra bureaucrats.

One bureaucrat-turned-politician appeared in her local paper, puppy dog-eyed, complaining how hard it would be to move because she had pets.

Others took to social media to tweet how awful it would be to live in isolated regional areas with limited services.

But isn’t that the point? 

Imagine if policymakers had to put up with mobile black spots, unpaved roads, and debt-inducing flights to Sydney for medical care. It could reshape policy. 

Does the Murray-Darling Basin Authority really make its best decisions by being next to a fake lake in Canberra?  

And would leaving the hustle and bustle of Canberra to move to Griffith really be so awful?

With its trendy cafes, wineries and huge roundabouts, Griffith has everything Canberra does – except for frostbite.

Sure, relocating is an inconvenience, but country people have long been expected to “go where the work is” and move to cities for jobs and study.

Some public servants have said they would rather quit. Would they be missed?

With two million public servants in Australia –including nine separate health, education and industry departments – I think we’re doing ok for bureaucrats. 

So please, public servants, come to Griffith if they force you to move here. You might actually enjoy it. And you’ll certainly learn something. 

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