Canberra’s statisticians should ditch the national capital’s rapacious parking fees and polluted lake for the laidback coastal groove of Geelong, says the local mayor and university Vice Chancellor.
Both stand ready to welcome any statisticians who make the move to Geelong in the wake of the Napthine government’s announcement that up to 250 Australian Bureau of Statistics jobs – most of them from Canberra – will move to Deakin University’s Geelong campus by 2016.
Deakin University’s Vice Chancellor Jane den Hollander said she understood that some of the statisticians based in Canberra would stay put because of their families, but she said others should consider moving to Geelong.
“Geelong is a small town, it’s right on the bay – so it’s beautiful. We have a big university, a very good health service, great performing arts, really good schools and the oldest and best football club in the world,” Ms den Hollander said.
“The vast majority of our staff would not move if you forced them to go to Melbourne. We find little difficulty getting staff to move here because it’s beautiful and it’s quite affordable relative to inner-city Melbourne and there’s less traffic.”
Ms den Hollander said she did not anticipate that the ABS would find it hard to get suitably qualified staff either, “There’s quite a lot of people in Melbourne who would be happy to sell up and move jobs.”
Exhuberant City of Greater Geelong Mayor Darryn Lyons – known for his Taylor Swift/zombie videos, peroxide mohican and his enthusiastic promotion of the city he loves – is also ready to embrace any Canberran statisticians keen to become newly-minted Geelongites.
“I am all about jobs – jobs for Geelong,” Mr Lyons said.
“This is a major job creation project, bringing with it an estimated 150 full-time jobs and around 100 casual positions. This will be a great move both for Geelong and the ABS.”
The Mayor said Geelong had a good quality, trained workforce available who were ready to get started.
But water views, excellent healthcare and fewer traffic jams might prove cold comfort for some of those Canberran statisticians asked to move.
So far, the ABS has said there will be no forced redundancies – although they ominously added ‘at this stage’ – and that affected staff could be redeployed within Canberra.
As yet, there is no firm news (from the ABS, at least) on how many of the 250 jobs will be full-time, p[art-time or casual and how many will represent new hires.
An ABS spokesperson said that the agreement with Deakin University would deliver ‘strategic and operational benefits’.
“No forced redundancies or moves are expected at this stage and existing offices will not be closed as a result of this agreement,” the spokesperson said.
“The ABS expects to eventually have up to 250 staff working from this location. Staff for the Geelong office will be sourced from across ABS offices and recruited locally. We anticipate the bulk of the offsetting reduction will be in the Canberra office.”
But Deputy National President of the Community Public Sector Union Alistair Waters said he was seeking assurances that the 250 jobs would not come at the expense of other jobs from the service.
“We are seeking an undertaking from management that ABS employees will not be forced to uproot their lives and move to Geelong or be made redundant,” Mr Waters said.
“Staff are clearly wondering how this is going to work because it just doesn’t add up and yes the lack of information is making them anxious.
“Their budgets have been cut by around $80 million over two years, and 350 of their colleagues have departed as a result of cuts, so to a lot of staff this looks like nothing more than robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“They know that the ABS needs to be properly funded to do its job, regardless of where its staff are located.”
The ABS will lease the former Ford Discovery Centre at Deakin University’s Geelong campus, which previously housed a museum showcasing motor history from steam engines to contemporary cars, for at least ten years. The university will pay for the building renovations.
Ms den Hollander said that the university already had a strong focus on big data and analytics and it was this kind of work she imagined the new ‘Survey Management Centre of Excellence’ would carry out. The ABS itself has not given any indication so far about what work the new centre would do.
Deakin University’s cutting edge Centre for Pattern Recognition and Data Analytics (PRADA) already uses statistical machine learning and pattern recognition in areas as diverse as health, surveillance, autism and social media.
She anticipated that the love would flow both ways between the ABS and the university with Deakin University students working on small projects in the ABS building and other students doing work experience or being employed there, while ABS staff might lecture at the university.
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