*This story first appeared in the Canberra Times
A federal government agency has handed its public servants scripted lines, to be recited in "BBQ conversations" and other "social settings", about its controversial move out of town.
Workers at the pesticides authority have been given a long list of "talking points" to use on friends or family asking about the authority's forced relocation from Canberra to Armidale in the heart of the electorate of Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Public servants at the Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) have endured a torrid time since the November 2016 announcement that their employer was moving to northern NSW with many staff, particularly the vital regulatory scientists, flatly refusing to go.
APVMA workers were again left scratching their heads on April 7 when they received a message from chief operating officer Stefanie Janiec.
"We've published some new talking points for you to use in social settings which will help you discuss our relocation to Armidale with friends and family," Ms Janiec wrote.
"My friends have asked me many questions about the relocation since the announcement was made last year, and I'm sure this is a similar experience for everyone in our agency.
"These talking points have been crafted to help you with something we all refer to as the BBQ conversation.
"We want you to feel confident when you answer questions about the relocation and we encourage you to keep talking to the people you love and trust about the relocation."
The all-staff talking points, designed for "all audiences", and which have been leaked to Fairfax, helpfully include scripts for those public servants who are moving to Armidale, those who are staying put and the don't knows.
"(I'm not sure if I'll relocate to Armidale:) For the moment, I'm getting on with the job and considering the information on the transition as its provided," The talking points read.
"(I won't be relocating to Armidale.) For the moment, I'm getting on with the job and considering the information on the transition as its provided.
"(I'm pretty sure I'll be relocating to Armidale) I'm listening to what our executive have to say about the transition, but for the moment I'm getting on with the job."
It is unclear what APVMA chief executive Kareena Arthy might tell friends and family after she refused last week to tell a Parliamentary inquiry investigating the move whether or not she was moving north with her agency.
There were also talking points for call centre staff fielding calls from the agricultural or veterinary industry with concerns about the timing of product approvals.
"We are working to ensure that disruption to our core business is minimised as much as we can," callers are to be told.
"With a move of this scale, it is likely there will be some disruption."
Ms Janiec told her colleagues they might find the talking points handy when attending BBQs or other social events during the Easter period.
"Whether you have decided to relocate, not relocate or haven't quite decided, these points provide you the key information and facts about the relocation that you can draw upon for any social conversations you might have," she wrote.
"Easter is just around the corner and I'm sure there are many BBQ opportunities where you can use these points to practice and build confidence talking about our relocation."