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Opposition mounts against APVMA relocation to Armidale - 28 November 2016

Canberrra Times
Georgina Connery

Politicians, chemical and veterinary industry leaders have joined a chorus of opposition to the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to Armidale.

Industry bodies are fearful of disruption, delays and a hollowing out staff expertise, while Canberra politicians have condemned a decision to move forward with a "senseless waste of taxpayer's money."

Canberra senator Katy Gallagher labelled the move a "full-scale attack on Canberra" to uproot 175 public servants and their families due to a proposal which failed to satisfy the Coalition's own cost-benefit analysis.

"The relocation flies in the face of good governance," Senator Katy Gallagher said.

"It is not in the public interest, it's not in the interests of affected stakeholders and it is definitely not in the interests of the taxpayer."

Member of Canberra Gai Brodtmann said the decision would cost the sector, the city, and current APVMA staff forced to choose between leaving their homes or losing their jobs.

"It is a shameless display of pigheaded pork-barrelling, which has never had a shred of merit around it," she said.

"It will take years to replace the 85 per cent of staff who refuse to leave and add years to the approval timeframes of new chemicals."

Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association (PACIA) chief executive Samantha Read warned of likely industry disruption and feared the transition period may make accessing the regulator hard for manufacturers.

"While we have not been a supporter of the move, we are committed to working with the APVMA management team to ensure an orderly transition," Ms Read said.

"It's critical that APVMA maintains its services during the period of transition. This includes adherence to their statutory timeframes, and not delaying the introduction of new and innovative chemistry for Australian farmers."

Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry and Rural and Regional Australia, Joel Fitzgibbon said Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce's decision was bad news for chemical companies, farmers reliant on veterinary medication and crop protection, and Australian exports.

"The APVMA's almost 200 staff is made up mainly of regulatory lawyers and scientists and people who require training well beyond their undergrads in this specific area of expertise. Only 10 per cent of them have indicated they are prepared to move to Armidale," he said.

"Without the APVMA working efficiently and effectively, our exports will be undermined," he said.

The Australian Veterinary Medicines Authority said APVMA had made great progress speeding up the process of registration for new veterinary medicines and wanted assurances relocation would allow this to continue.

"We're very concerned about the potential loss of this expertise for those unable or unwilling to move from Canberra," AVA spokeswoman Dr Melanie Latter said.

"We share our concerns with other key stakeholder organisations, including the National Farmers' Federation and Animal Medicines Australia. Significant delays to product registration affect the health and welfare of livestock and pets, as well as the competitiveness of our livestock industries."

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