news Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer has strongly criticised a decision to shift the roles of some 56 Tasmanian IT workers employed by the Department of Human Services onto the mainland, describing the decision by the Federal Government as “a disgrace and a betrayal” by the Coalition.
iTNews revealed the plans in early December. It reportedly comes as part of the creation of “sustainable ICT hubs” around Australia for the department, one of the largest employers of IT staff in the Federal Government courtesy of the IT department of its former Centrelink division.
In a statement issued today, Palmer said the move highlighted how the Liberal Party had “abandoned Tasmania”. Palmer said the move by Public Service Minister and Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz to modify the Information Communication Technology (ICT) branch of DHS in Hobart and shift staff to ICT sites in Adelaide, Brisbane or Canberra was a disgrace and a betrayal.
“This is a betrayal of the people of Tasmania by Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz and is just part of their plans to shrink the public service,” the federal Member for Fairfax said. “All they know is how to slash and ban and they will shrink the economy of Tasmania to the size of a pea. The decision to close the Hobart ICT site is not due to performance. It has also had an impact on the other DHS staff members in Tasmania who are concerned that their jobs are at risk.”
Palmer said the Palmer United Party was fielding a powerful team led by Kevin Morgan (editor’s note: Not the telecommunications analyst Kevin Morgan) at the March 15 Tasmanian election and was determined to put the state back on the map after decades of neglect.
“Tasmania needs jobs and growth after years of neglect by Labor, the Liberals and the Greens,” he said. “Tasmania needs a new vision and real leadership and only the Palmer United Party can make a difference in Tasmania. We are very confident of receiving strong support from Tasmanians at the state election. The Palmer United Party is working to end the major party duopoly in this country and in Tasmania we will fix the damage done by Labor, the Greens and the Liberals.”
The move appears to be an unusual case of Palmer — a mining and tourism magnate from Queensland — agreeing with the unions on the issue of jobs. In a statement issued earlier this week, the Community and Public Sector Union said that it would present Minister Abetz with a petition signed by over 1000 Tasmanian Federal public servants urging him to save 56 Human Services Department ICT jobs at risk of being moved to the mainland.
CPSU Regional Secretary Paul Blake said: “We are calling on Mr Abetz to do the right thing for Tasmania and get this proposal scrapped. It is a huge blow for the staff and their families. And it’s also bad for Tasmania in general because moving these highly skilled and valuable jobs to the mainland will take $4.5 million out of the local economy.”
“There has been a huge amount of support for these workers from fellow workers and the community at large. People are really struggling to understand why this ICT work needs to be centralised to the mainland. This sort of ICT work can be done anywhere and the Department have failed to make a business case for moving these jobs to the mainland.”
“Staff want action from Mr Abetz. This decision was made in October 2013 so it is totally unacceptable for Mr Abetz to try and blame the job losses on the previous government. He’s in charge now, he needs to fix it,” said Blake.
“And the bottom line is that we have had it confirmed that there are no savings under this proposal, in fact it looks like costing the taxpayer money to move these jobs out of Tasmania. This is centralisation gone mad,” he said.
The irony of Clive Palmer appearing on behalf of the ordinary workingman should be obvious to everyone. The mining magnate is trying to take advantage of this issue for political gain. For what it’s worth, I disagree with Palmer. My opinion on this issue was published earlier this week. I wrote:
“I have sympathy for the workers concerned, especially given the poor employment situation for ICT professionals in Tasmania. I hope that they are able to find new roles. If not, I would encourage them to start their own business. I have found that a worthy alternative to employment with a major organisation. And I do support the cause of major Australian organisations keeping jobs in regional locations such as Tasmania, especially as the availability of broadband increases and we can all work remotely.
However, is this “centralisation gone mad”, as the CPSU claimed? No. The department of Human Services, according to its latest annual report, employs almost 36,000 staff. You can bet that there are several thousand staff as part of that number whose roles would touch on IT. Shifting some 56 jobs around the country is a basic and normal practice for any organisation that size and should go almost unremarked. In addition, unions have a poor history within the white collar technology space. One wonders whether the 56 workers who are set to lose their roles are definitely part of the CPSU.
This situation starkly displays the fact that unions will jump up and down over any tiny change major Australian organisations make to their workforce, even if, as is the case here, those changes impact only 0.001 percent of the workforce. The unions need to get some perspective here. At the least DHS is keeping these jobs in Australia. If this was a private sector organisation, there is no doubt that these kinds of roles would have been pushed offshore to India long ago.”
If Palmer wasn’t also a politician right now, I would expect him to agree with me.
Image credit: Facebook page of Palmer United Party