Standing up for Canberra

Turnbull Government turn their back on Menzies' Legacy

In The Government and the People—1939-41, Sir Paul Hasluck exposed the administrative heartache and headache caused by the dispersal of the Commonwealth Public Service, saying it 'wasted time and money, fretted men and hampered understanding, delayed decisions and led to conflict and duplication.'

It was for this reason that the founder of the modern Liberal Party, Sir Robert Menzies set about concentrating the Public Service here in Canberra, deeming it better for the 'country as a whole'.

That said, Sir Robert Menzies was not an early adopter when it came to the idea of Canberra:

“I cannot honestly say that I liked Canberra very much. It was to me a place of exile, but I soon began to realize that the decision had been taken, that Canberra was and would continue to be the capital of the nation, and that it was therefore imperative to make it a worthy capital. Something that the Australian people would come to admire and respect, something that would be a focal point for national pride and sentiment. Once I had converted myself to this faith, I became an apostle …”

And his 'interest, and effectiveness, in the development of the national capital was later for him a source of special pride.'

What a pity the Liberals and Nationals have no sense and understanding of history.

What a pity the Liberals and Nationals have no respect for the legacy and vision of Sir Robert Menzies.

And what a pity the Liberals and Nationals have no understanding of the Constitution, which says:

The seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament, and shall be within territory … granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth … and shall be in the State of New South Wales   and be distant not less than one hundred miles from Sydney.

That is in the Constitution. As I said in my first speech, without Canberra there would be no Australia—without Canberra there would be no Australia.

To borrow the words of Sir Henry Parkes, the crimson thread of kinship runs through us all. Those threads are drawn together in this city. They run from every corner of this nation, and the knot that binds them is this House, in our nation's capital.

Already more than 60 per cent of Commonwealth Government is conducted outside Canberra, through service delivery agencies such as Centrelink and the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Does the Turnbull Government want to spit in the eye of the Sir Robert Menzies legacy, ignore the Constitution and move the remaining 40 per cent of public servants out of Canberra? Is that their vision for this nation?

We already know the contempt and disdain shown to Canberra by the Liberals and Nationals.

We saw it in 1996 under the Howard Government, when 15,000 public service jobs were lost in this town—people left this city, shops closed down and Canberra went into an economic slump for five years.

Since the Abbott-Turnbull Government we have seen 13,000 public service jobs axed, national institutions cut to the core, and more cuts are planned in the budget.

We have seen next to zero investment in infrastructure, with Canberra getting an insulting and paltry $3 million of the $75 billion spend in the budget.

Sir Robert Menzies would be turning in his grave at the bog ignorance of the Liberals and Nationals, at the blatant misunderstanding about the reason for Canberra as the seat of Commonwealth Government and administration.

I repeat: as the seat of Commonwealth Government administration, as outlined in the Constitution.

This ludicrous, half-baked Turnbull Government's decentralisation 'policy on the run' shows that the blatant and shameless pork barrelling that is the proposed 'all cost and no benefit' APVMA relocation is just the thin edge of the wedge.

It is a pathetic attempt to cloak the disaster of the proposed APVMA move in a kind of 'plan' or a concept to move that has had a devastating toll on that agency, with a massive brain drain which will take years to recover from. It is a move which has taken an enormous toll on product assessments, which have plummeted.

It is that or it is one of the saddest chapters in Australian Government history, a sad chapter in our nation's history and yet another sad chapter, through bog ignorance and complete misunderstanding of the Sir Robert Menzies legacy, in the history of the Liberals and Nationals.

Shame on you!

Shame on you for turning your backs on the Sir Robert Menzies legacy and vision. Have you no sense of history?