It was revealed in Senate Estimates today that the Minister for Agriculture has not undertaken a proper cost benefit analysis on his proposal to move Australia’s agriculture chemicals regulator and three key agriculture research corporations out of Canberra.
The Minister for Agriculture announced in October that the Government was “committed to boosting jobs growth and strengthening communities across Australia” through relocating its agencies “outside of Canberra”.
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority – 178 staff to Armidale
Grains Research and Development Corporation – 76 staff to Albury
Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation – 13 staff to Wagga Wagga
Fisheries research and development corporation – 13 staff to Tasmania
The lack of information departmental officials were able to provide to Senators on the costs involved with this proposal is both concerning and alarming.
It suggests that there is possibly a breakdown of effective communication between the Minister for Agriculture and his Department.
Questioning by Senator Doug Cameron revealed that many of the agencies had long term contractual lease arrangements and breaking these arrangements will cost millions of dollars.
The APVMA would have to pay an estimated $2.6 million to breaking its contractual lease and this cost would need to be met within its own budget.
If the Minister is genuinely committed to relocating agencies then he should have the appropriate information and a strategic plan on how these moves will impact on the core business of the agencies before putting them on notice to the possibility of moving. It suggests that the Minister is using decentralisation as an excuse to pork-barrel.
The Abbott Government claims that there is a budget emergency and therefore is forced to make cuts to research and development, education, health, pensions and to the ABC and SBS.
However, the Abbott Government appears not to be concerned by the millions of dollars that will be wasted by decentralising the APVMA to the Minister’s electorate.
The move to push these agencies out of Canberra is likely to lead to a significant loss of experienced and expert staff. The Prime Minister must intervene to put Barnaby Joyce's thought bubble to rest.
THURSDAY, 20 NOVEMBER 2014