Senate inquiry into APVMA move to Armidale – February 2017
The Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee will hold an inquiry into the operation, effectiveness and consequences of relocating corporate Commonwealth entities, as well as the economic, environmental and capability implications.
The inquiry follows long-running controversy over the actions of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in ordering the move of one his portfolio agencies, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), to relocate from Canberra to Armidale.
The move has been strongly opposed by APVMA staff and some agency stakeholders, including the National Farmers Federation.
The Government's own cost-benefit analysis, costing $272,000 and conducted by Ernst and Young, found there were no material economic advantages to support the relocation. The report warned the APVMA may be unable to relocate, recruit and replace key technical staff and management, and could lose access to stakeholders.
It warned chemical companies may leave the Australian market and lose up to $2.37 million in revenue due to short-term productivity damages.
At the height of the controversy Finance Minister Mathias Cormann issued an official policy order requiring the authority to be located at least 150 kilometres away from Canberra. The order cannot be disallowed by Parliament.
Noting the inquiry had been announced Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce said, “We have been trying to get Labor to engage in the conversation about decentralisation, which is growing jobs into regional Australia and relocating government agencies out of major cities.”
The Nationals in the federal Coalition called on regional Australians to make their views clear on why areas outside big cities deserve jobs after the inquiry into decentralisation of Commonwealth agencies was approved by the Senate.
Mr Joyce said decentralisation saved millions of dollars in rent, and moving jobs to regional towns offered housing affordability and a better environment for families.
“The Nationals believe in decentralisation which is spreading job opportunities across Australia,” he said.
Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash said the inquiry was an opportunity to look at regional development opportunities created through relocation of agencies.
“Public service jobs are a huge driver of downstream jobs, especially when placed in regional and rural towns,” Senator Nash said.
“Regional Australia deserves the benefits of public sector employment just as much as any capital city. After all, regional Australia supplies the water, food, electricity and gas which powers our cities.”
Mr Joyce said the inquiry would specifically examine the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to Armidale, and consequences of the move.