Plans to move APS agencies out of ACT re: Andrew Barr

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Expansion of national security agencies announced in this year’s budget could lead to an increase in Australia’s civil service, says ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, but he is concerned about plans to move APS agencies out of Canberra.

The Federal Government has announced that it will increase the Australian Defense Force to 18,500 by 2040; Defense will increase by more than 3,000 personnel over the next 12 months; and providing $9.9 billion over 10 years to significantly improve Australia’s offensive and offensive cyber and intelligence capabilities.

“We know we live in a complex national security environment,” said liberal ACT Senator Zed Seselja.

Cybersecurity work may well involve ACT staff and contractors, believes University of Canberra policy expert Dr John Hawkins.

Treasury portfolio staffing is expected to decline, Dr Hawkins said (although much of that is in the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and could simply be a reduction in temporary census workers), and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is expected to grow.

Spending on higher education is projected to rise from $10.7 billion in 2021-22 to $10.4 billion in 2022-23 and 2023-24 – which he says could affect the ACT, given that education is one of the biggest industries in the territory.

The outlook for scientific services, another big ACT industry, is brighter, Dr Hawkins believes, as the “digital business plan” could create more jobs in the sector.

“However,” Mr. Barr said, “the continued push towards decentralization of the Service through the creation of ‘regional hubs’ could have ramifications for the ACT economy in the medium term.

“The ACT Government urges the Commonwealth to focus any ‘devolution’ on congested capitals rather than Canberra.”

Independent Senate candidate David Pocock was also concerned about staff cuts at major service delivery agencies such as Services Australia and was considering further devolution.

“If Canberrans trust me to represent them as a Senator in the next Parliament, I will fight the devolution of the civil service every step of the way,” Mr Pocock said.

“Canberra is the nation’s capital, and the civil service should be here in the ACT.”

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