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Move the APVMA to Armidale? – Nuh!

By John Hargreaves - 5 December 2016 23

Armidale City Centre

I want to wade into the debate on the Barnaby Joyce pork barrelling brain snap to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to Armidale.

At the risk of repeating the details from the cost-benefit analysis, some figures stand out.

Canberra loses 365 jobs and $155 million a year after the third year of moving the people. This is of course direct and indirect jobs across the Territory.

Armidale gains 189 jobs and $77 million a year after the same period, in direct and indirect jobs.

Hey! Wait a minute, that doesn’t add up! What happened to the 176 jobs currently in Canberra? No answer!

Moving the people to Armidale has been costed at $25.6 million. Is this to be paid by NSW? Nuh! It will be paid by you and me!

It is also reported that the cost of redundancies will be of the order of and average $600,000. This is going to be a huge cost to the taxpayer if the bulk of the Authority’s staff say, no thanks, I don’t want to go to country NSW, I want to stay here.

And if the bulk of the staff say no thanks, where is the Government going to find the bulk of the 189 jobs which are to relocate to Armidale. This expertise doesn’t grow on trees!

I’d like readers to contemplate two more points; only one of which has had airplay. They are the loss of corporate memory and the implications of the regulatory order signed by Minister Joyce.

This Authority is made up of professionals in a particular field of science, a field which is significant to the health of the rural sector of this country. They do work for the rural sector similar to that of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, in their work for the personal health of Australians.

It matters not to the farmers and vets in WA or SA or the NT where this Authority is housed but it does matter to them if the APVMA is stripped of its scientific knowhow and expertise. Sure, the databases will be of some assistance but the scientists are there to provide the interpretations and safeguards. They will not be there if the bulk of the staff refuse to move. This is nonsense of monumental proportions.

The stealth and unaccountable method of legitimising Joyce’s decision, after the event and in the face of a detrimental cost benefit analysis, is to be deplored. He signs a regulatory order, which is not a disallowable instrument, and so avoids debate in the Reps. He knows that if he were to engage in a debate on the floor of the House, he would be creamed, so he uses the underhanded regulatory order to suit his purpose. This is an abuse of the regulatory order.

And to top it off, the words of the order are weird and have horrible implications.

“With agricultural policy or regulatory responsibilities” had to be located in a regional community “not within 150 kilometres by road of Canberra or the capital city of a state”.

Does this mean any or all Federal government agencies “with agricultural policy or regulatory responsibilities”, such as the Department of Finance branch which deals with costings of agricultural policies, or PM&C’s agency which oversights all other departmental activities, including those with agricultural policy imperatives? What about the agency which administers national fisheries laws?

If this instrument is applied, will it be successfully used by other pork-barrelling ministers to shore up their own futures? Is this pork-barrelling a blatant conflict of interest and perhaps a corrupt activity? I don’t know? Maybe an ICAC would see it as such.

Isn’t the wording familiar? “Not within 150 kilometres of Canberra or the capital city of a state.”  A bit similar to the location of a national capital?

But again, does this mean that agricultural policy can’t be developed, proposed and determined from any capital city in Australia? Were the state governments consulted? Does this mean that the good burghers of Perth are incapable of determining wheat, cattle or wine policies? Similarly with those in Adelaide or Brisbane.  And is Hobart incapable also, given that the bulk of its economy is rural-based?

Does this mean that the rural areas within that 150 kilometres are not capable of locating such an Authority?  Does this mean that Yass or Goulburn are not suitable for basing the Authority? Even though they are close to the amenities in Canberra, which are more extensive (bar NBN) than Armidale could wish for?

I wager that there are plenty of places within 150 kilometres of a state capital or Canberra which could happily house such an agency.

Note again the words “not within 150 kilometres of Canberra or the capital city of a state”. So all state capitals and Canberra are banned. What about Darwin? No mention of the capital of a territory per se.  Oh no! just single out Canberra! So, in the literal interpretation of the regulatory order, no agency with agricultural policy or regulatory responsibilities can be located within 150 kilometres of any capital other than Darwin. And the winner is … Darwin!

Incidentally the removal of public servants from Belconnen was scrapped after a huge fight, a success claimed by Senator Seselja. I put the success down to a grass roots campaign not to the intervention of the good senator, but if he did it once, he can do it again.

Where are you Zed? Congratulations to Gai Brodtmann and Katy Gallagher for writing to the PM to have the move overturned. And congratulations of a sort to the ACT Leader of the Opposition for splitting with his federal colleagues and calling for the move to be scrapped.

This is just incredible and must be stopped.  The order must be withdrawn and rescinded.  Only two people can stop it.  The PM and the Minister for Finance.  Let’s see what they do.  I reckon if they don’t intervene, they will show a contempt for the national capital and the process of governance, through the regulatory regimes which underpin that process.

What’s Your opinion?


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23 Responses to
Move the APVMA to Armidale? – Nuh!
pink little birdie 9:52 am 07 Dec 16

Masquara said :

Everyone besides Canberrans will be cheering, John.

Except for all the major stakeholders of APVMA, including the farmers federation.
Except for anyone who screamed about the ‘budget emergency’.

There are some companies and departments who are happy because they have benefited from the skilled exodus of staff from the department. Particularly those who are the technically skilled who’s skills are in high demand.

Maryan 10:37 pm 06 Dec 16

gooterz said :

We’re spending on trams because of growth and apparent surplus of funds.

Canberra is seen to be the problem child of the nation to outsiders.
Yet we pretend canberra is just a baby version of sydney.

If canberra had giga bit fibre to every house every government dept would have to move here as everyone could work from home part time and save Australia billions in costs. However instead of investing in information technology of the 21st century we’re pushing 19th century transport.

Canberra needs a reason to keep these agencies not just have a whinge when they go.

How very astute of you gooterz! Right on!

dungfungus 7:19 am 06 Dec 16

Bryan said :

Boofhead “returned” to the New England Electorate to stand for the House of Reps. Where was the first (and still only ?) place in the Electorate with NBN ? Armidale. Where does Boofhead live ? Armidale. Did Boofhead get a fright when Tony Windsor decided to run against him ? Yes. When was the decision to move the APVMA to Armidale announced ? Exactly. He is such a nong he did not even try to hide that it was an attempt to buy votes. And if anything happens to Malcom he is Prime Minister……

Not very nice to call Barnaby “boofhead” is it?
And I think you will find he lives in Tamworth, not Armidale.
Tony Windsor lived in Werris Creek on the edge of a coal mine which bought his property for a lot of money and he then moved to the Coonabarabran area which is actually outside the New England electorate so he really could no claim longer represent the electors in New England .

I would prefer Joyce to be PM rather than Malcolm Left-Turn Bull.

Bryan 10:41 pm 05 Dec 16

Boofhead “returned” to the New England Electorate to stand for the House of Reps. Where was the first (and still only ?) place in the Electorate with NBN ? Armidale. Where does Boofhead live ? Armidale. Did Boofhead get a fright when Tony Windsor decided to run against him ? Yes. When was the decision to move the APVMA to Armidale announced ? Exactly. He is such a nong he did not even try to hide that it was an attempt to buy votes. And if anything happens to Malcom he is Prime Minister……

Masquara 5:03 pm 05 Dec 16

Everyone besides Canberrans will be cheering, John.

mddawson 4:28 pm 05 Dec 16

Prior to the establishment of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) in 1993, the then Prime Minister assured Chief Minister Rosemary Follett that the bulk of the staff would remain in the ACT.

From what I understand, the regulations produced by the APVMA are voluntarily accepted by the State Governments. There was concern that if NSW were to opt out of these regulations, it would adversely affect the ACT.

Chief Minister Follett then sort assurance from PM Keating that this agency would remain here. While he did write to the Chief Minister it would remain located in Canberra, the PM did not see any reason at that time for this assurance to be written into legislation.

John Moulis 2:53 pm 05 Dec 16

Everybody knows how much I hate John Howard and his government, but one of the most spectacular cases of pork barrelling would have to be the creation of the Defence Headquarters (HQJOC) out of nothing, and its location between Queanbeyan and Bungendore in the middle of the bush in the bellwether marginal seat of Eden Monaro in order to save the Liberal member Gary Nairn from losing his seat.

Totally unnecessary, fulfilling no role, costing billions to build and run and contributing nothing to the country except another embryo layer of bureaucracy in the already bloated Defence Department. And the Liberals made no secret of the fact that it was pork barrelling spread over two elections – 2001 and 2004. I remember driving through Queanbeyan and seeing large billboards with pictures of Nairn and Howard with the words “New Defence Headquarters – coming soon!”

When it comes to pork barrelling Labor are total amateurs compared to the Libs and Nats.

JC 12:21 pm 05 Dec 16

dungfungus said :

I could never understand why the NDIS was set up in Geelong when common sense would suggest it would have to be headquartered in Canberra given its need to integrate with other stakeholders also based in Canberra.
Nevertheless, the Federal government of the day (I think that was a Labor one) decided on Geelong and instead of whinging about it, the coalition got on board and supported that decision, http://www.g21.com.au/news/federal-coalition-welcomes-ndis-hq-geelong

I don’t recall any ACT politicians (Territory of Federal) demanding it would be better established in Canberra.

Typical Liberal party supporters answer. They did it, so we can so it is alright.

Though one key difference, NDIS was a new agency and not a (costly) relocation for no reason other than pure politics.

dungfungus 11:44 am 05 Dec 16

rommeldog56 said :

This must be one of the worst cases of pork barreling – ever. But you know what ? The rest of Australia won’t care.

Actually, when pork barrelling makes the difference between forming a government or not, Julia Gillard would be the clear winner for giving hospitals at Tamworth and Port Macquarie preferential treatment under the deals struck between her and Independents MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott.

She also prioritised roll out for the NBN in the two electorates where those two “independents” were presiding.

I think Australia cared a bit more about that incident but you are right on the current one, no one cares as it is the norm.

dungfungus 11:16 am 05 Dec 16

bronal said :

The establishment of the NDIS in Geelong was a purely political move, to compensate for the loss of jobs caused by the closure of the Ford car plant. Not sure how many Ford workers would be good at policy development, however.

As long as it wasn’t pork barrelling then I guess that’s OK.

How many retrenched Ford workers are now working for the NDIS in Geelong?

bronal 10:53 am 05 Dec 16

The establishment of the NDIS in Geelong was a purely political move, to compensate for the loss of jobs caused by the closure of the Ford car plant. Not sure how many Ford workers would be good at policy development, however.

gooterz 10:27 am 05 Dec 16

We’re spending on trams because of growth and apparent surplus of funds.

Canberra is seen to be the problem child of the nation to outsiders.
Yet we pretend canberra is just a baby version of sydney.

If canberra had giga bit fibre to every house every government dept would have to move here as everyone could work from home part time and save Australia billions in costs. However instead of investing in information technology of the 21st century we’re pushing 19th century transport.

Canberra needs a reason to keep these agencies not just have a whinge when they go.

rommeldog56 10:14 am 05 Dec 16

This must be one of the worst cases of pork barreling – ever. But you know what ? The rest of Australia won’t care.

Ronald_Coase 9:26 am 05 Dec 16

Dare I say it’s all cosmetics? Yes, the majority of the executive will move – or at least appear to move – but the expertise will work from Armidale virtually and remain in Canberra until Armidale gets up and running or the APVMA returns to Canberra when the other party gets in.

dungfungus 8:02 am 05 Dec 16

I could never understand why the NDIS was set up in Geelong when common sense would suggest it would have to be headquartered in Canberra given its need to integrate with other stakeholders also based in Canberra.
Nevertheless, the Federal government of the day (I think that was a Labor one) decided on Geelong and instead of whinging about it, the coalition got on board and supported that decision, http://www.g21.com.au/news/federal-coalition-welcomes-ndis-hq-geelong

I don’t recall any ACT politicians (Territory of Federal) demanding it would be better established in Canberra.

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