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.