Decentralisation much harder than it sounds

The Newman Government faces a challenge in fulfilling its commitment to relocate public servants to regional centres such as Townsville, if the experience of Queensland Rail’s passenger business is instructive. The Queensland Times reports this morning (Cancelled: QRS move to Ipswich):

THE envisaged migration of Queensland Rail employees from Brisbane to the Ipswich CBD has fallen short with only a fraction of the promised number moving to their new home.

Two years ago the former Labor Transport Minister and Ipswich MP, Rachel Nolan, announced 400 staff from QR’s passenger arm would move to Ipswich ahead of the newly-developed CBD.

Queensland Rail revealed last week only 27 full-time and 22 part-time staff had moved to the Limestone St offices.

The move was touted as a precursor to QR finding a home in the Icon Ipswich building.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Scott Emerson said a decision on where QR would find a home within Icon Ipswich was still pending.

Even putting aside the HR challenge of getting people reasonably happy to relocate, or finding new people in new regions, it appears very difficult to decentralise public services because Ministers will always want the top public servants close by to respond to their needs, and likewise the top public servants will want their people as close as possible to them. For this reason there is limited scope to decentralise public servants engaged in policy advice.

And I wonder about the scope to decentralise public servants in procurement, IT and HR roles, too, as any public service CEO will want to keep a close eye on these areas. In the wake of the Queensland Health payroll debacle and fake Tahitian prince fraud, public service chiefs need to keep a close eye on back office operations.

I’ve previously questioned the logic behind decentralisation of public services here:

Move public servants to regions only if cost-effective

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One Response to Decentralisation much harder than it sounds

  1. KS says:

    This was always something obvious which would be difficult to deliver even without any further budgetary constraints. The cost of delivering services in Queenslands more regional economy was always going to become a broader issue in time regardless of any Queensland budgetary constraints.

    Why will other states not object to Commonwealth funding for Queensland where it supports regional economies rather than deliver efficient services?

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