The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Reference Committee has joined a long line of experts, organisations and farm leadership bodies to express alarm over the forced relocation of the Australian Pesticides & Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).
The Senate initiated the inquiry last October following an ABC Four Corners report which focused on both the safety of the chemical glyphosate which is regulated by the APVMA and the independence of the Authority.
The Senate Committee report found that whilst the APVMA regulatory decision making was independent and based on credible science, the forced relocation to Barnaby Joyce’s electorate “has hampered the regulator’s ability to address a number of long-running issues”. And “It will take the APVMA” a number of years to regain its lost scientific, technical and management strength”. However, this assumption is based on the idea that a stable workforce can be maintained in Armidale.
The Committee also said “the evidence is clear that the relocation of the APVMA to Armidale has undermined the Authority’s ability to retain scientific and other experienced staff that would allow it to undertake its regulatory functions in a timely manner.”
The Committee recommended that “the Australian Government takes into consideration the disruption caused by the forced relocation of the Australian Pesticides & Veterinary Medicines Authority, including the ongoing impact on staff capability and capacity, and prioritises a fit-for-purpose and stable workforce over any decentralisation policy.”
The Committee also expressed regret that the relocation had brought into question the independence of the APVMA and has delayed essential reforms which would have improved its performance as well as public confidence.
The Committee has reminded us that the Government’s own cost-benefit analysis warned the relocation would be a disaster and it has been.
In an admission that the forced relocation is failing, the APVMA is establishing an office in Canberra contrary to its own Policy Order which specified the “APVMA was to be in a regional community - not within 150 km by road of Canberra”.
The Prime Minister must immediately take action to clean up Barnaby Joyce’s mess.
The fact is that too much damage has already been done to the capacity and capability of the APVMA to undertake its important work of assessing, registering and regulating agvet chemicals in Australia.
The Australian community and our farmers deserve a Government that will prioritise ensuring the APVMA can undertake its responsibilities rather than pork barrelling Coalition partners’ electorates.