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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1961

Dr LEIGH (Fenner) (16:16): It is my fervent hope that, with the member for New England's move to the back bench, the coalition's attack on the Public Service will also take a step back. Since the coalition came to office nearly five years ago, there have been 14,044 Public Service job losses—well in excess of what the coalition said would happen before they came to office. Like the member for Hunter and the member for Canberra, I have had particular concern for staff of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. By the middle of last year, one in five staff at that agency had quit, including the chief executive, Kareena Arthy. As of November, only six staff were located in Armidale. We heard last month that staff were being offered up to $55,000 in moving costs if they relocated to Armidale and stayed for two years. Consultants engaged by the agency have said that they may need to bring in workers from overseas to properly staff the agency after its move.

When announcing his resignation on Friday, the member for New England described the move from the APVMA in Canberra to Armidale as being 'at the forefront of what I do'. I call on the government now to re-evaluate this move, given that its chief architect has moved to the back bench. More than that, we need to bring respect for the Public Service back into government. When natural disasters strike, it's public servants who race to ensure that those affected by floods and fires get relief payments. When teenagers get into strife overseas, it's Australian diplomats they turn to for help. Quarantine officers keep pests out. We need to stop attacking public servants and begin celebrating them.