THE federal government got things horribly wrong when it tried to push ahead with relocating both Centrelink and Medicare services to a building in Bathurst Road but yesterday it set things right when it announced they will stay in the central business district.
Senator Matt Thistlethwaite was in Orange yesterday for official openings of projects which have enjoyed federal funding but the reversal of this poor decision will be as welcome as anything the senator said.
Government services should be all about access, not just how people qualify for them but how they physically receive the services they need.
Canberra’s decision to locate first Centrelink services and then the Medicare office in an office in busy Bathurst road with woefully inadequate parking hit a raw nerve for several reasons.
Firstly, it should have been obvious to planning bureaucrats that the site it picked for Centrelink client services was a poor one where parking and public transport were concerned.
Then there was the issue of councillors not being kept informed of what the government planned to do on the site. The private sector certainly doesn’t have the luxury of overriding council planning procedures.
But what really capped off the folly was the announcement that Medicare services would be moved out of the Orange City Centre where it was accessible to most people, into the same site east of the train line.
More and more the government’s plan to bring all human services under one roof was being pursued at the expense of commonsense.
Taxpayers should see the merit in placing as many government services together as possible. This should produce financial savings for Canberra and time savings for residents.
But choosing the best available site at the time even when it does not really fit the purpose is not clever government. If the right site can be found in the future there will be little object.
Yesterday Senator Thistlethwaite demonstrated at least that the federal government had not forgotten how to listen.