The farm and veterinary medicines sectors had their worst fears confirmed during Senate Estimates today.
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) CEO Kareena Arthy confirmed today the organisation has lost a staggering 48 employees between 1 July, 2016 and 15 February, 2017 as a result of Barnaby Joyce’s pork barrelling exercise. This is in addition to employees who left the APVMA following the announcement of the relocation by Joyce during the 2016 Federal election.
Twenty of these staff members were identified as highly trained and specialist regulatory scientists.
Globally regulatory scientists are in short supply. Ms Arthy revealed she spoke to regulators in New Zealand and Canada in efforts to recruit but was turned away.
“They are in such high demand, they are very hard to recruit,” Ms Arthy said.
A number of people who have departed the APVMA were decision makers, delegates and executive level offices who typically had seven to ten years experience.
“We are also down one or two senior, or what we call, delegates so they are the people who make the final decision under the legislation,” Ms Arthy told Senate Estimates.
The Agriculture Minister’s determination to move the APVMA from Canberra to his own electorate is destroying the Authority. The losers will be our farmers, gardeners, pet owners and potentially all consumers of food which is subject to chemical sprays.
According to the APVMA’s CEO, when these professionals are lost to the organisation, it will take up to seven years to rebuild the workforce.
The Minister's own damning cost benefit analysis says it will take at least five years.
In the meantime, chemicals won’t be approved in a timely manner which will impact productivity and possibly, our biosecurity.
The APVMA has a rigorous process whereby they are able to reconsider the registration of an agricultural and veterinary chemical if potential risks to safety and performance are identified.
The APVMA has a Chemical Review Program where they are continually assessing chemicals which are already in the marketplace.
Very real and dangerous risks are that chemicals may not be adequately reviewed producing adverse outcomes for human health, the environment or plant health.
There is no greater responsibility for government than to ensure the health and safety of its citizens and the regulation of toxic chemicals should be of serious concern for all sides of politics.
It is important that as law makers, politicians are confident that any decision affecting the APVMA will continue to ensure Australia has the best system possible for safe chemical use.
Today I call on Prime Minister Turnbull to show true leadership by putting an end to this illogical relocation.