Representatives from the agriculture and veterinary sector have opposed the federal government’s decision to reintroduce a board to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), arguing it was politically motivated.
CropLife Australia and Animal Medicines Australia both spoke out against the proposed new board, undermining a claim from the Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie that this would be a “non-controversial” change.
“These amendments are simple, non-controversial changes introduced today to improve the efficiency of the agvet chemical regulatory framework which will in turn will increase the speed to which farmers can access safe and effective chemicals,” McKenzie said in a statement about the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) Board and Other Improvements Bill 2019.
CropLife CEO Matthew Cossey said the industry peak body accepted all the other reforms to agricultural and veterinary chemical regulation, but was “disappointed” by the “ill-considered” move to tack on the new governance board to the same legislation.
“Adding this additional layer of bureaucracy comes at a significant cost and does not address the core inefficiencies in the APVMA’s operations,” he said.
“This is a price that will ultimately be borne by Australian farmers who should not be expected to pay more for crucial products as a result of increased regulatory costs, especially at this time when so many are doing it tough due to one of the worst periods of drought Australia has ever experienced.”
According to the industry lobbyist, chemical regulation in Australia costs three times more per product registered than in the United States, despite the Australian market being just one tenth in size.
“Adding another cost of upwards of half a million dollars per year for a governing board is exorbitant. It is a slap in the face to the farming sector that this board will be fully funded by industry fees and levies, rather than by general revenue like other government regulators – even those with industry cost recovery arrangements,” he added.
APVMA has had a board in the past, but it was scrapped in 2007 following an independent review. Last year, former Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm said he thought both CropLife and the AMA would support a new board for APVMA, as their former CEOs had expressed disappointment when the first board was abolished.
But Cossey argued the latest decision was an “ill-considered politically motivated” initiative, and urged senators to amend the bill so that the other “long-awaited” measures could be passed.
“It’s also extremely disappointing that the government appears to be forcing the parliament to take the bad with the good by adding this measure to previously proposed regulatory changes that had bi-partisan support when they were passed by the House of Representatives 18 months ago,” he said.
AMA Executive Director Ben Stapley said it was “unclear” how the new board would improve the agency.
“The animal health industry wants to work with the government to ensure the APVMA is an efficient regulator, but you don’t do that by building in more layers of bureaucracy and additional costs,” he said.
Both organisations said APVMA’s recent controversial relocation to Armidale was costly enough without any more expenses being wasted.
“The APVMA has already been through a phase of considerable upheaval through the relocation process, including extensive levels of staff turnover and a loss of corporate knowledge,” Stapley said.