Relocation of regulator to Barnaby Joyce's electorate plagued its performance, Senate inquiry finds
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Relocation of regulator to Barnaby Joyce's electorate plagued its performance, Senate inquiry finds

The forced relocation of the Australia's pesticides regulator from Canberra to Armidale, spearheaded by former agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, has plagued its performance, a Senate inquiry has found.

The Senate committee report has found the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines authority's controversial move exacerbated previous concerns about safety and efficiency and caused a loss of scientific expertise.

Former agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce.

Former agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

It said the relocation to Armidale, where Baranaby Joyce lives, "has caused considerable disruption to staff and severely weakened the authority's ability to operate effectively and efficiently".

It also said the APVMA's international reputation was at stake, with flow on effects to Australia's international trade.

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Agricultural and veterinary product made, sold, imported or used in Australia must be registered by the agency which undertakes scientific evaluations of their safety and efficacy.

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The Labor majority report, which included 110 submissions and two public hearings, presented nine recommendations aimed at improving the output and quality of work.

The committee recommended the government "prioritises a fit-for-purpose and stable workforce over any decentralisation policy".

Coalition senators defended their decentralisation policy, a 2016 pre-election promise, arguing it "improves regional access to stable government jobs and related business opportunities".

A Greens dissenting report from senator Janet Rice took issue with the chemical risk of glyphosate, known as Roundup.

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"Given the magnitude of the claims of the impact of glyphosate on human health, such a shift in one component of the chemical risk formula warrants a much more comprehensive review than the APVMA has conducted."

In a statement Ms Rice also said Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) donations data shows the "the independence of the Senate inquiry and indeed the APVMA is under a cloud".

RoundUp patent holder Bayer and industry body CropLife collectively donated about $139,000 to the Labor, Liberal and National parties in the 2017-18 financial year, according to AEC donation information.

Other recommendations included implementing a quality control framework, workflow management system and establishing a mechanism for liaison between stakeholders and the APVMA to improve transparency.

CropLife Australia said the report confirmed the independence of the APVMA showing their "regulatory processes are sound and their decisions can be trusted".

"The weight of evidence presented to the committee has confirmed why the community should have confidence in the decisions of the APVMA," CEO Matthew Cossey said.

AAP

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