Controversial APVMA base opens in push for decentralisation

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday August 12, 2019

“Did you say the vets haved mooved?” Source: Getty Images

Two new agency headquarters have opened in regional Australia as part of the government’s “decentralisation agenda“.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s (APVMA) new building is located in Armidale. The New South Wales city is a “fantastic exemplar for decentralisation”, according to Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie.

She and Barnaby Joyce, Member for New England, officially opened the office last week, where almost 130 staff currently work.

Since 2013, roughly 1,700 jobs have been moved from Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne, which Mckenzie says is part of a wider push to “move public service jobs to regional Australia, improve access to government services, and boost local economies”. 

“Decentralisation is about diversification. It’s about increasing the availability of skilled employees, and increasing the diversity and resilience of the Armidale region’s economy,” she said.

Australians in the regions should have the same access city people have to government careers.”

McKenzie bizarrely likened her colleague’s opening speech to that of the former American President, John F. Kennedy.

“Mr Joyce’s speech invoked memories of John F. Kennedy’s famous Moon Speech about doing important things not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” she said.

This is not the first time Joyce and JFK have been compared — in an interview defending his affair with a staffer, Joyce listed fellow adulterers including JFK and Bob Hawke as examples of successful politicians who may not have had the best morals.

Joyce announced his plan to move APVMA in 2016, which Labor and the public sector union both criticised as pork barrelling.

A Senate Estimates hearing last year found 70% of staff did not wish to relocate. Joyce told ABC News that staff who had left due to the move could be easily replaced.

READ MORE: The new decentralisation ultimatum: go bush or a local gets your job

Meanwhile, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) new headquarters have opened in Coffs Harbour, in another effort to take jobs to the regions.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the new location would provide a more convenient point of contact for Northern NSW’s commercial vessel industry, building on the “decentralisation agenda”.

“It makes perfect sense for our national maritime safety agency to expand its footprint into regional areas such as Coffs Harbour, bringing increased access to services and improving the local economy,” he said.

Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government Mark Coulton says a larger public service presence in regional areas brings government closer to the people it serves.

The new HQ is part of AMSA’s plan to have 50% of its workforce based outside of Canberra by 2022.

READ MORE: Decentralisation policy finds more success in theory than in implementation


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