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Barnaby Joyce orders APVMA Agriculture public servants to Armidale in 'blatant pork barrelling'

The forced move of a public service agency from Canberra to northern NSW will rip more than $157 million a year from the capital's economy as well as costing the ACT region 365 jobs.

The shock figures are contained in the long-awaited cost-benefit analysis of the forced move of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority by accounting group Ernst and Young.

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The study shreds the economic rationale for the move, finding the benefits to the Australian economy are "modest" and the advantages for the agency itself are "limited".

It was also revealed on Friday that taxpayers were to be hit with a $25.6 million bill just to move the authority from Canberra to the heart of Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce's northern NSW electorate.

Mr Joyce made the cost public on Friday while claiming the endorsement of former Burke's Backyard TV presenter Don Burke for the controversial move, which has been condemned as "blatant pork barrelling" by Labor.

Industry lobby groups CropLife Australia and Animal Medicines Australia added their voices to the chorus of opposition on Friday, as both groups said they opposed the move to Armidale.

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The cost revelation came as the Coalition government bypassed Parliament to get moving the controversial forced relocation from Canberra to northern NSW the 175 public servants working at Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

Mr Joyce used a regulatory order to decree that public service agencies "with agricultural policy or regulatory responsibilities" had to be located in a regional community "not within 150 kilometres by road of Canberra or the capital city of a state".

The order did not need to pass Parliament and was not subject to a disallowance motion.

EY found that, by year three after the move, Canberra would be shorn of 365 direct and indirect jobs and its economy would be $155 million worse-off each year.

Armidale would benefit, in year three after the move, with 189 jobs and $77 million in economic output

Much of the long-term cost of the move was driven by the expected refusal of 85 per cent of APVMA staff to make the move. Average redundancy payments of nearly $600,000 for the authority's senior executives were factored into the cost.

"The economic benefits for the Australian economy associated with moving the APVMA from Canberra to Armidale are modest," it said.

"This is because the strategic and operational benefits of having the APVMA operate out of Armidale appear to be limited."

Mr Joyce acknowledged that many of the authority's Canberra-based workers did not want to move to Armidale but said they would be supported by a moving committee and advised them to look at the upsides of the northern NSW town.

"Staff who may be concerned about moving to Armidale should know we will work in partnership with the committee to ensure the smoothest transition possible," Mr Joyce said.

"Armidale has NBN, excellent cafes, art galleries, a university, cathedrals, quality health services, small bars, quality schools and a welcoming community."

Celebrity gardener Burke, who had a role in setting up the authority in the 1990s, said the move to Armidale looked like it would be the highlight of the authority's 20-year history.

"This is the best thing the APVMA has ever done, to go to Armidale," Burke said.

"It puts you in the absolute centre of country activities which will keep a balanced focus of the APVMA.

"They need to be in touch with people, particularly the country. I believe in this move, I really do."

 

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