Concern at office shift

By Country News

Farmers say they continue to have reservations about the relocation of a key Federal Government agency.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, as agriculture minister, was responsible for the shifting of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to Armidale in his New England electorate.

The National Farmers Federation told a public hearing of an inquiry examining the issue of government decentralisation that farmers strongly advocated the relocation of departments.

But NFF president Tony Mahar said some government jobs were best done in the cities.

‘‘There is a requirement for analysis, investigation and examination of the relocation of agencies to make sure there is a net benefit to the regions, the community and the sector as a whole,’’ Mr Mahar said in Canberra.

The NFF told the inquiry one example of a questionable decision was the relocation of the APVMA.

‘‘The NFF continues to have reservations that the relocation of the APVMA will have a negative impact on services, performance and business continuity,’’ the organisation said in its submission.

‘‘If the current rates of approval of Agvet chemicals decline, Australian farmers will be at a disadvantage in the global marketplace.’’

In May, it was revealed only 30 per cent of applications for crop protection products were completed in line with statutory timeframes — down from 82 per cent. The rate of animal medicine applications fell from 84 per cent to 58 per cent. The inquiry heard the loss of specialist scientists was of concern for farmers, who depended on new products to improve their productivity.