SUBJECT/S: Relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to Armidale.

ADAM SHIRLEY: With us this afternoon is Joel Fitzgibbon, Federal Labor Spokesperson for Agriculture. Mr Fitzgibbon, appreciate your time


SHIRLEY: If the evidence is there that placing a regionally based, public service group in a regional area is a good thing why not decentalise to these specific areas?

FITZGIBBON: Because the evidence is not there Adam and Barnaby Joyce sounded very much like a guy who is about to lose his seat in the Parliament. That was a lot of waffle we just heard from Barnaby Joyce. The APVMA is a regulatory authority, it deals with the chemical companies that produce the crop protection chemicals for [inaudible] the farmers and of course veterinarian medicines etc. Their interface is with the multinational companies, not with farmers. Their main aim in life is to protect human health to make sure the sprays and chemicals we use on farms is not detrimental to human health, it’s got nothing to do with all those things Barnaby Joyce was raving on about. Now, I think the Prime Minister knows what a dumb idea this is, we are going to lose all these scientists and other professional people and the capacity to approve and process these chemicals and that is going to b e very, very bad news for the farming community. Now I –

SHIRLEY: It’s not necessarily true though, Mr Fitzgibbon that we’ll lose them? They’ll all be offered a position in Armidale.

FITZGIBBON: But the APVMA has done their own internal survey and we know as a result of that survey is that the overwhelming majority, close to all of the professional scientists and regulatory lawyers etc. have no intention of packing up their families from Canberra to move to Armidale. And it will take years to build that expertise, you don’t just graduate as a scientist and go straight to the APVMA and do your work, it takes years of training. In fact the boss of the APVMA suggested estimate would be three and a half years before she could build the capacity she needs in the organization to do the work the farmers need them to do.

SHIRLEY: If you’re talking about the work in pesticides and veterinary medicines that this authority does, does it not make sense to be based in one of the regional areas one of the hotbeds of agriculture, where the applied tests and science could be carried out?

FITZGIBBON: No the tests are done in a laboratory Adam. It’s got nothing to do with being close to the source of producing our food. Their interface is with the big multinationals who apply to have their chemicals approved and the APVMA needs to be accessible for those multinational companies, they shouldn’t have to make their way to Armidale to make their applications and have their conversations and interviews with the APVMA.

SHIRLEY: Were you in negotiations with the Deputy Prime Minister about this particular issue prior to the election being called?

FITZGIBBON: No I’ve been critical of Barnaby Joyce on this move which is just a pork barrelling exercise in his electorate. It’s not the first by the way, he moved his Ministerial office from Sydney to Armidale to give himself an electorate office in both Tamworth and Armidale. But I’ve been critical of this from day one and I don’t think Barnaby Joyce should be making this announcement in caretaker period, but indeed I think Malcom Turnbull realizes how reckless this move is and many months ago he decided to intervene and insisted that a cost to benefit analysis be done before the move takes place. Now that cost to benefit analysis is not complete, it’s been done independently by Ernest and Young.

SHIRLEY: How do you know that though because the Government could well have it in their hands?

FITZGIBBON: I know Adam. I know Adam and I’m pretty sure I know what is says too and that is that this is a move that will be detrimental to Australian agriculture and of course detrimental to Canberra’s economy.

SHIRLEY: So should you, well should a minority government form, should you win government come the 2nd of July, would you ensure this particular department stays in Canberra?

FITZGIBBON: Well my real fear is that Barnaby Joyce has rushed out there today while he can to lock this thing in somehow. We’ll see what the position is if and when we take government. But I can confirm for you I think this is a really bad idea and it’s a move that’s going to have a very big adverse impact on our farmers and of course and adverse impact on Canberra.

SHIRLEY: Joel Fitzgibbon, appreciate your time on 666 ABC Canberra on this issue which has just been announced today.

FITZGIBBON: It’s a great pleasure.

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