Former minister Steve Whan has accused the O’Farrell government of seeking huge job cuts as part of its shakeup of the primary industries department and its rural services.
Since Mr Whan held a variety of rural-based portfolios in former Labor governments before Barry O’Farrell’s coalition won the 2011 election, it is likely he has some knowledge of what’s going on, and what could happen.
Very likely he also has plenty of people who can keep him abreast of what’s happening in the departments he once ruled over.
Given that he’s so conversant with the operations and management of that monolith, he’s likely to know just what might be likely for the new Local Land Services.
This is the government’s new era for primary industries services, and the restructure will include amalgamation of authorities like the Livestock Health and Pest Authority, Catchment
Management Authorities and Primary Industries extension services.
While he might know what’s in the wind, he’s also pretty adept at putting the wind up others and playing the political game.
Mr Whan contends that during a budget estimates hearing this week,
Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson finally acknowledged that more than 1,900 people are employed in the areas subject to amalgamation – and she confirmed that jobs would go, but would not say how many.
So, the alarm bells are ringing in Whan’s office and he’s making political mileage about what that means, particularly in regional NSW.
He says Minister Hodgkinson was unable to answer how many offices would be closed, how many staff would be sacked, how many new bodies there would be and their boundaries, how they’ll be elected, who gets to vote for them, how much it will cost, and how major biosecurity threats will be funded and what funding might be there for major pest campaigns, such as locust plagues.
It is a bit cheeky but there’s a lesson in it. The minister has already said that a review panel headed by NSW Natural Resources Commissioner Dr John Keniry will develop the new model for Local Land Services delivery.
It will look at finding the efficiencies government seeks. Ms Hodgkinson acknowledges there will be job losses. The job for us, for farmers, for users and customers, is to provide the community consultation and feedback that ensures that we get the services we need, that need to be delivered, and that the jobs that go, don’t go from the places we can ill afford them to disappear from.