NEW data shows the New England and North West has lost hundreds of public sector jobs in the past five years.
A report from think-tank The Australia Institute (TAI) analysed census data from 2011 to 2016, and estimated regional NSW was missing out in $500 million a year in foregone wages and salaries from the impact of government downsizing policies.
The Glen Innes Severn council area lost almost 120 public sector jobs, shrinking from 640 in 2011 to 542 in 2016, a drop of 18.44 per cent, making it one of the worst hit regions in the state.
The nearby Moree Plains Shire council area has lost nearly 10 per cent of its public sector jobs, going from 881 to 787 over the same time period.
TAI Centre for Future Work director Jim Stanford said one point the report sought to hammer home, was that public sector jobs had a big influence over private sector jobs.
“Important public sector facilities such as hospitals, TAFEs and prisons can act as anchor industries for regional communities, underpinning the local economy,” Professor Stanford said.
“Public sector jobs have spillover effects for local economies – such as the purchase of supplies, and the goods and services purchased by public sector workers with their wages.
“That’s why public sector spending is so important. When the public sector sneezes, regional NSW catches a cold.”
The report comes as New England MP Barnaby Joyce slammed his own government’s decentralisation agenda as “bullshit”.
“Decentralisation has to be authentic decentralisation,” Mr Joyce told Fairfax Media.
“That is not Sydney to Parramatta. From the top of a tall building in Sydney, I can see Parramatta. So you can’t say that is decentralisation.
“Decentralisation from Canberra to Adelaide is yet another one. You can’t decentralise to the centre. You have got to decentralise away from the centre.
“The loss of public sector jobs in regional towns like Glen Innes is a good indication why The Nationals’ policy of decentralisation, and the relocation of government departments like the APVMA to Armidale, must continue.
“Because with more industry and business, comes jobs, growth and more prosperous communities in the New England. That’s why I have been pushing for decentralisation to the regions, to give us the best possible chance.”
The TAI report pointed to four government policies responsible for the erosion of public sector jobs in regional NSW – outsourcing, downsizing, privatisation, and the imposition efficiency dividends.
The total public sector employment has declined from 17.1 per cent of regional employment in 2011 to 16.5 per cent in 2016.
“Retaining the same share would have meant over 6000 more public sector jobs in NSW’s regional communities,” the report stated.