Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should start 2017 by stopping the illogical relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from Canberra to Armidale in Barnaby Joyce’s electorate. 

This is a politically-motivated, pork-barrelling move which poses a threat to both human health and farm profits.

When the desperate Prime Minister dashed to Armidale in December to help Joyce mislead the Australian people on his APVMA pork barrel he revealed his lack of knowledge, or more worrying, his intention to deceive when he said:

“I think it’s very important that we have more research and more educational centres in regional Australia and of course the APVMA, naturally, here particularly with the connection to the University of New England is a very logical connection. There are many really powerful arguments to seeing more of our research outside of the big cities. It underpins the economies in regional centres, many of which have been challenged of course by the downturn in the mining and construction boom. Not so much an issue here but in other parts of Australia. Education, science research can provide a very good underpinning for regional economies.”

This statement makes no sense as the function of the APVMA as a regulator means the authority deals primarily with multinational drug companies which are not situated in rural Australia.

Understandably, the move has been opposed by peak industry body CropLife who recognises the hit to the APVMA’s capability will equate to a loss of productivity and will cost the sector millions of dollars. This will directly impact our farmers and their profit aspirations.

The relocation of the APVMA will also threaten the health of consumers of agriculture products and Australia’s clean, green and safe image. The maintenance of our reputation relies on the timely and efficient work of the authority to approve the agricultural chemicals used to spray the food we eat and medicines our veterinarians rely upon.

As with the Government’s lack of foresight and reactionary response rather than a long term strategy, the APVMA relocation has serious consequences for Australia’s biosecurity.

Labor agrees investment in rural and regional communities is vital. However, narrow-mindedly shuffling jobs from Canberra to Barnaby Joyce’s electorate at the expense and risk of the broader agriculture sector is not the way to go.

If the Prime Minister does the right thing now, the $25 million allotted to the move will not be wasted.

From the Centrelink debt debacle and pension cuts to senior Ministers’ expenses scandals, it’s clear the harmful APVMA relocation is another piece in the puzzle of the Government’s division and dysfunction.

Malcolm Turnbull must fulfil his duty as Prime Minister and stand up for Australian people by putting an immediate halt to his deputy’s pork barrelling. If not, his reputation as a leader will continue to be undermined.

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