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Researchers safe from jobs purge

Cally Dupe, Tom Zaunmayr and Glenn CordingleyThe West Australian
Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan takes questions from the crowd at a meeting in Karratha last week.
Camera IconRegional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan takes questions from the crowd at a meeting in Karratha last week. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

Rural-based researchers are likely to be retained at Department of Agriculture and Food WA as senior Perth staff brace for potential job losses.

Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said any staff cuts associated with merging DAFWA with two other departments and the Regional Development Commission were likely to come from Perth-based upper management.

Other cost savings would come from reducing “marketing ventures” and reining in government spending, she said.

Premier Mark McGowan recently revealed WA’s 41 government departments would be merged to 25 to help reduce crippling State debt.

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Ms MacTiernan told Countryman she was confident the move would redeploy staff to regional areas.

“If we do need to reduce staff... we do anticipate there will be senior jobs reconsidered,” she said. “It’s not our intent to reduce people in the regions and it’s not our intention to erode the research capacity of DAFWA.

“We are not going to reduce capacity in the regions or our research capabilities.”

From July 1, the new Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development will open its doors. It will absorb DAFWA, Regional Development, Fisheries, and WA’s Regional Development Commission.

Exactly what jobs may be cut or when was still an unknown on Tuesday and Ms MacTiernan vehemently refused “to speculate”. But she said senior researchers and “top scientists” at DAFWA needed to be locked into long-term contracts. “You want senior people in the organisations and not to be pushing them out the door,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“It’s a department that has been badly bruised, we want to see how we can built that research capacity.”

Ms MacTiernan’s comments come after WA Nationals Leader Mia Davies called for clarity from Labor.

She said chief executives of “each development commission” had been told their positions would be “abolished or shifted to Perth”.

But Ms MacTiernan quickly released a statement in the hours which followed to dispel what a spokesman said was a rumour.

“We will retain Regional Development Commission boards and leadership positions,” the statement said.

“As part of the public service renewal, development commission staff will be employed by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

“This will ensure the skills and talent across the commissions and regions are brought together under one umbrella.

“This will not mean losing staff from the regions — in fact, I expect to see more of the public service regionally based over time.”

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