Ordering population growth to take away

The smart alec in me thinks it is great that a Launceston McDonald’s is being renovated in time for federal government bureaucrats to be relocated to Northern Tasmania – it will give them somewhere to do their work.

Remember how then Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce relocated public servants from Canberra to Armidale but they ended up at the local Maccas, purportedly because the new office was not big enough, or did not have decent internet or toilets.

That was denied but the visual of a haphazard and half-baked plan to satisfy voters in Mr Joyce’s electorate stuck.

A lovely irony that the pork-barreling caused the egg and bacon muffin consumption of the region to increase dramatically.

Now both state and federal members of the respective Liberal governments are promising to pitch for lucrative departmental and agency jobs to leave Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.

Let’s be clear, this is a welcome plan for North and North-West Tasmania if it works.

And it is not a bad deal for willing public servants who, as Treasurer Peter Gutwein says, would benefit from the state’s better lifestyle and livability factors.

The history of suggesting public servants be moved to regional areas is as long as their Friday lunches and weekends.

Before all the time-free pencil pushers jump onto social media to decry how busy they are, relax, I’m joking.

Public servants are an easy and anonymous target to brand as slackers resistant to change – bureaucratic malcontents sleepwalking their way to cushy paychecks.

Moves are hard to make work for a variety of industrial and human resources issues.

It is usually achieved through attrition when superannuation peaks and people no longer have a financial fillip to stay.

It has been several years since it was announced the Mineral Resources offices in Hobart would be moved to Burnie.

The plan was beset by delays and union claims that the cost had blown out by millions of dollars and experienced staff were resigning rather than relocate.

Recently, the government announced plans to move 100 jobs from the Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Department to Devonport and Launceston.

These mooted moves are welcomed in spreading both the services, wages, and decision making from Hobart.

Where governments and the business community can get better outcomes though is not through contrived population growth but organic and sustainable growth.

North and North-West Tasmania are obvious spots for that growth as evidenced by congestion and housing issues in Hobart.

That was a problem that few foresaw and no one really planned for. North and North-West Tasmania cannot do the same.

I heard an incredible statistic that Melbourne is growing by 2000 people per week – that’s a Launceston each year.

Those people should be encouraged to come a few hundred kilometres south.

It needs, of course, to be the right demographic. As our already older population leaves the workforce, we cannot afford to become the nursing home of Australia.

Working families who will put money into housing, schooling, businesses, and taxes are what is needed to raise productivity.

We must all work on the long-term planning to make sure the infrastructure and people are ready for any influx.

Public servants are part of the recipe but they are not the entire Big Mac.

  • Mark Baker is Fairfax Tasmania and South Australia managing editor