The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) will retain between 30 and 40 specialist staff in Canberra because of potential risks to the regulator’s performance.
In one of former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce’s big decentralisation announcements, he started the process of moving the APVMA headquarters from Canberra to Armidale in his electorate of New England.
But the move forced many APVMA staff to leave – up to to 110 staff – disgruntled they would have to move their families to Armidale from Canberra. The agency was facing the loss of long-time experienced staff if they forced all staff to leave, including regulatory scientists.
The Greens attacked the move earlier this year saying it was an “unmitigated balls up”, according to their spokesperson for agriculture and rural affairs, Senator Janet Rice.
“So many people’s lives turned upside down, at massive cost to the taxpayer and putting the services of this vital government agency at risk. This is all to indulge the pork barrelling whim of the thoroughly discredited Barnaby Joyce,”she said.
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“The APVMA are doing the best they can in very difficult circumstances, having to implement a dog’s breakfast of a policy, put in place by ex-Minister Barnaby Joyce to shore up his own support in his electorate.”
The APVMA chief Executive Officer Dr Chris Parker announced on Monday that a unit of specialist scientists and decision makers will work from the office in Canberra, to support the authority to fulfil its statutory obligations under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code.
“Our existing plans for teleworking, an enhanced reliance on external scientific assessors and recruitment into Armidale have not reduced our relocation risks to an acceptable level and more must be done,” Dr Parker said.
“Retaining the knowledge and expertise of our scientists is essential to the effective operations of the APVMA and accommodating these specialist staff in a Canberra office further supports the APVMA to deliver its statutory obligations.
“I have advised the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. David Littleproud MP, that in addition to core regulatory operations to Armidale, we will retain a unit of 30 to 40 specialist scientists and decision makers in Canberra.”
He said “exercising this flexibility will support the APVMA fulfil the Government Policy Order by relocating operations to Armidale, while maintaining the current and future regulatory performance of the authority”.
The APVMA continues to work towards the delivery of 2000 square metres of A grade leased office accommodation in Armidale by mid-2019 which will house approximately 150 APVMA staff.
“This decision does not compromise our commitment to establish a regulatory centre in Armidale,” Dr Parker said.
“The APVMA is already operating from Armidale. We have 21 staff working from the interim office on Beardy Street and we recently signed an additional lease for a second interim office to house a further 32 staff.
“Longer term, our workforce will operate from the permanent leased accommodation constructed at 102 Taylor St. They will be supported by specialist scientists and decision makers working from the Canberra office.
“Maintaining the APVMA’s quality regulatory services for the benefit of Australia’s agricultural industries, our trade and the environment is vital, and we will not lose sight of this through the relocation to Armidale.”
Staffing levels at the authority is expected to hover at about 170, about 30 less than previously.
journalist and author
journalist and author
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