Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has thrown support behind the decision to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to the New England region next year.
Mr Turnbull described the move as “a very logical connection”, during a surprise visit to the University of New England in Armidale today with Deputy Prime Minister and Member for New England Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce addressed the media at UNE and described Australian agriculture as being on the “cutting edge of innovation”.
When asked if the move had become a debacle for the government after a cost benefit analysis showed only 15.2 percent of staff at the Canberra-based government agency were willing to follow the work to Armidale, Mr Turnbull said the move might offset the downturn in the mining and construction boom.
“The APVMA here, to build a connection with the University of New England, is a very logical connection,” the Prime Minister said.
“There are many powerful arguments for seeing more of our research outside of the big cities. It underpins the economies in regional centres, many of which have been challenged in the downturn of the mining and construction boom.
“Education (and) science research can provide a very good underpinning for regional economies.”
During the visit, Mr Turnbull praised the University as a centre of innovation, and said he and his deputy “have a lot to learn” from the New England’s agricultural scientists.
“Our farmers are the most productive in every field from animal husbandry to cropping,” he said. “And it is because of scientists like the men and women we have seen here today.”
“It is very inspiring. Barnaby and I, I like to think that we are pretty progressive as farmers, but I think we have a lot to learn here.”
Mr Joyce used the address to call for the continued growth of “this centre of excellence”, Armidale.
“We have moved on from someone putting their hand in a bucket of arsenic with a copper drenching gun and going along and drenching the sheep. And we will continue to move on,” Mr Joyce said.
Mr Joyce has previously spoken about the farm pesticide watchdog’s relocation, ordering the move in November despite considerable pushback from public servants in the Canberra-based government agency.
"Staff who may be concerned about moving to Armidale should know we will work in partnership with the committee to ensure the smoothest transition possible," Mr Joyce said in November.
"Armidale has NBN, excellent cafes, art galleries, a university, (churches), quality health services, small bars, quality schools and a welcoming community.”
The expected move has garnered support from varying sectors, including from Australian celebrity gardener Don Bourke.
COMMENT: We can appreciate that is will not be convenient for every employee of the agency to be moved to a new location, and the economic benefit to the Australian economy is only modest. But as has been demonstrated, the benefit to Armidale will be huge, with job creation and a diversifying economy. Read on.
Journalist Matt Bedford is tracking the Prime Minister on his visit to Armidale today.
Mr Turnbull is touring UNE’s SMART Farm with Deputy PM and Member for New England Barnaby Joyce:
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