Barnaby Joyce’s decision to move pesticides regulator a huge financial risk
Barnaby Joyce pushed for the move of the regulator when he was up against popular independent MP Tony Windsor, against the wishes of all the major stakeholders.
On November 25, 2016, then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce announced the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Medical Veterinary Authority (APMVA) to Armidale, as part of his commitment o decentralise certain Commonwealth services to the regions. Joyce announced the move during the election campaign when he was facing a fierce battle for his New England electorate with the former independent member Tony Windsor.
According to Guardian Australia, a cost-benefit analysis for moving the regulator to Armidale found significant risks, which if not managed properly could cost the agriculture sector up to $193 million a year.
The $272,000 analysis, which had been kept secret until after the decision was made, found the most significant risk related to the ability of the authority to relocate, recruit or replace staff within the first two years of the move from Canberra to Armidale. Moving the agency of 189 staff is expected to cost $25.6 million. Joyce dismissed concerns and said the relocation would make both city and the organisation stronger in the long run.
The relocation of the APMVA was against the wishes of the authority itself and most of the major stakeholders, including the National Farmers Federation. and flew in the face of an Ernst Young report ordered by the government, which showed little to no benefit from the move. The move was decreed by the Coalition by regulatory order, thus bypassing parliament. Mr Joyce pushed hard for the relocation while he was Deputy PM and Agriculture Minister, and has previously revealed he was the only one in Cabinet fighting for it.