6 June 2019

Liberal MP says ACT "cushioned from reality of where people actually make money"

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Member for Goldstein Tim Wilson says Canberrans are “cushioned from the reality of where people actually make money…”. File photo.

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.

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Capital Retro5:14 pm 07 Jun 19

He needs Andrew Barr to counsel him.

justin heywood4:09 pm 07 Jun 19

News flash for ACT residents. Most of Australia has a similarly low opinion of the Canberra ‘bubble’.
The fact that so many Canberrans think he’s expressing some outrageous and controversial views indicates how right he is.

HiddenDragon5:57 pm 06 Jun 19

“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.”

There have been some admirable examples of that, but all too often, it’s bye-bye to Canberra and/or Australia when things get to scale, so the “high skill, high wage jobs” mantra has serious practical limitations as a longer term strategy for this town – not least because so many other places are doing the same, often with far more competitive cost structures and proximity to markets.

On the broader point made by Tim Wilson, he’s being unfair to Canberra to the extent that there are, now, many Australians – not just in Canberra – who are very detached from the businesses and industries which actually pay our way in the world. Canberra probably has a higher concentration of such people than any other capital city and, to put it another way, a higher proportion of people who are still enjoying most of the nice bits of globalisation without suffering from too many of the downsides of that phenomenon. The latter will surely change, particularly with 5G and whatever comes after it – none of which is likely to make life more secure for a town which still relies heavily on the cash-flow from large, centralised bureaucracies.

Why don’t the Federal politicians ever go down to the Kambah tavern for their Chardonnay?

Why do they ignore my aunt from Calwell who for years cleaned the pollies personal toilet in Parliament House without acknowledgement or asking how she copes with Canberra’s high cost of living?

Why aren’t they buying their rib fillet steak from the amazing Jordos chop shop at Wanniassa.?

Why aren’t the Senators getting a feed from the hard working people at King Fook Florey?.

These Bozo Politicians only know the parliamentary triangle and its connected big wigs. They don’t know the single family nurses from Tuggeranong or the plumber from Charnwood, they never go out to the struggling suburbs.

Yes, it was an extraordinary radio interview. A politician actually told the truth, at least to the extent of Wilson saying Canberra is “cushioned from the reality of where people actually make money and make investments off their private capital.” Like it or not, Canberra is a public service town, with many of those public servants having little idea of what the real world is like.

While I accept Leigh’s point that “in the ACT 63.8 per cent of workers are employed in the private sector” I wonder how many of those are directly providing goods and services to the Federal Government. Further, how many of the remainder are providing providing goods and services in support of those employed, directly or indirectly, by the Federal Government.

In another thread Capital Retro claimed that there are 22,000 ACT public servants, so there’s another category of people cushioned from reality.

You add all these up and it’s obvious that Canberra is still a government town. At least in the old days the ACT had three streams of income – porn, fireworks and taxes. The internet killed porn, Hargreaves killed fireworks, so all we are left with is taxes.

Enough for now. Maybe I’ll get around to commenting on bias in the ABC, and that of Epstein in particular, in the future. Then again, maybe not.

Please Tim, your observation is about as accurate as your sense of direction leaving the Reps carpark! The bubble exists over Parliament House and doesn’t extend into the broader community and if you think it does then I formally invite you to come to Belconnen and share your views with my fellow Territorians who run the businesses that grow our district and service our community. I am one of those Federal public servants you misrepresent and miscategorise. Many public servants will have bought investment properties in the region and rely on the local business community to maintain them, organise their finances, look after their kids in day and after care, service their vehicles and appliances; the list of normal economic activity goes on. We are no different than any other region except that we have to put up with narrow views like yours and as a politician you should be the first to understand that. But clearly if you can’t see it from your office or Comcar windows, or walk to it from inside the APH bubble then it clearly doesn’t exist!
Take me up on the offer Tm any time you’re ready; the Jewel in Canberra’s Crown awaits you

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