FINANCE Minister Mathias Cormann has guaranteed the relocation of a government department to Armidale, even if Barnaby Joyce loses his seat of New England on July 2.
“I don't believe Barnaby Joyce will lose but it [the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority] goes ahead irrespective, it’s an election commitment,” Mr Cormann told ABC radio yesterday.
Concerns about the federal government’s commitment to the relocation were raised after the deadline for a cost-benefit analysis on the move was not met on Friday.
The analysis had been ordered by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in January after farming groups, including the National Farmers Federation, opposed the move.
The Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for the analysis, defended taking took more than three months to hire accounting giant Ernst and Young to get the work under way by saying it had to follow procurement rules.
Federation president Brent Finlay also sought assurances the relocation would not hurt agribusiness.
“The [authority] is currently completing only 51 per cent of applications for pesticides on time,” Mr Finlay said.
“We have real concerns this would slow further with a change in the authority’s address.”
The authority’s relocation to Armidale is predicated on a Coalition win.
It appears to have split Coalition ministers. When asked in a TV interview about Mr Joyce's approach, Treasurer Scott Morrison said: “Barnaby has a strong plan and advocacy for rural and regional Australia and we will work with him as part of that Coalition and that team to make sure we do it in the most efficient way possible.”
- with FAIRFAX MEDIA
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