In an extraordinary radio interview, Liberal MP Tim Wilson has claimed that Canberra is “a massive government bureaucracy” that is “cushioned from the reality of where people actually make money and make investments off their private capital”.
Wilson, the Member for the Victorian seat of Goldstein and the former Human Rights Commissioner, was being interviewed on ABC Radio Melbourne along with Member for Fenner and Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury Andrew Leigh in a discussion that began with the raids on News Corp and the ABC, devolved into why Labor lost the election but ended with Wilson claiming he had been “massively verballed”. Region Media is quoting directly from the interview transcript.
Referring to Mr Leigh’s Canberra seat, Mr Wilson said “…When you have a town that’s massive, a massive government bureaucracy in comparison to people who put their own capital on the line, put their own capital to employ people and grow jobs and grow the economy, that’s a bit distant from…”
Presenter Raf Epstein then asked “Why do you feel it necessary to insult a whole other batch of voters just to make a political point?”, adding later “I would like you to address the idea that simply because you’ve not invested in a business, you can’t make a decision about economic policy?”
Wilson denied he was making that inference, but continued “What I said was that Andrew comes from a town which is mostly government. If you want to pretend that’s not the reality that’s your choice. That’s 100 per cent reality, so that’s a pretty simple observation.”
The interview then diverted into whether a public servant was able to properly make decisions about economic policy. Wilson said “It is a government town. What I’m saying is people on the ground who invest, who grow jobs and create opportunity outside in other parts of, outside of Canberra in other parts of the country, have a different perspective.”
Andrew Leigh responded towards the end of the discussion. “Reluctant as I am to inject facts into this, I would point out that in the ACT 63.8 per cent of workers are employed in the private sector. It’s a two-thirds private sector town and I suspect my constituents would take a pretty dim view about being dismissed offhand by Tim Wilson.”
The exchange takes place following the ACT budget presentation and addresses by the Chief Minister, who pointed out to the Canberra Business Chamber yesterday that the ACT economy already outstrips those of Tasmania and the Northern Territory and is potentially set to exceed the South Australian economy within coming decades.
The Chief Minister says that the ACT receives less federal funding per capita than any jurisdiction other than Western Australia and NSW via the GST, a gap he says amounts to around $1215 per capita or $300 million across the city. The government’s aim over the past decade has therefore been to decouple the economy from over-reliance on the public purse and public service and to build a knowledge economy that capitalises on the city’s strengths in technology, innovation and research.
According to the Australian Public Service Commission in 2017, 152,095 people work for the Australian Government nationwide, excluding defence personnel. Almost 40 per cent of that workforce as a whole is based in the national capital in order to service the Federal government, while 19 per cent of the APS is based in NSW and 17 per cent in Victoria.
Around two-thirds of those jobs are in the Commonwealth public service, while the ACT Government’s own public service accounts for the remaining third.