Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce pushed ahead with his plan to force more than 170 Canberra public servants 800 kilometres from home before a cost-benefit analysis of the proposal, ordered by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, was complete.
The minister's office denied suggestions on Friday that he had gone rogue by announcing his plan without the PM's backing, saying the only thing that would stop Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority moving to Armidale was a Coalition defeat on July 2 .
Outrage mounted all day on Friday with the agribusiness and veterinary medicines lobbies, the ACT government and federal opposition all panning the idea, and even Mr Joyce's ally, the National Farmers' Federation, expressed reservations about the plan.
The public servants were to be "forced from their homes" by the "arrogant" decision to move them 800 kilometres to northern NSW, the ACT's Chief Minister said.
Federal Labor said Mr Joyce had wandered "off the reservation" by announcing the move without a cost-benefit analysis ordered by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The Department of Agriculture said it had taken more than three months, from January to early May, for it to get accounting giant Ernst & Young to begin the compiling the analysis.
"The department has not yet received the cost-benefit risk analysis; it is still under development," a departmental spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for Mr Joyce said the minister was confident most of the APVMA public servants would come around to his way of thinking and that a majority "would see the benefits of moving, both professionally and in terms of lifestyle".
ACT Minister Andrew Barr vented his fury at the move, dubbing the policy an "outrageous display of pork barrelling".
"One hundred and 74 Canberra-based employees and their families at the [authority] will be either forced out of their jobs or out of their homes," Mr Barr said.
"This pork barrelling by the Deputy Prime Minister is breathtaking in its arrogance.
"This is wrong. The Liberal Party is attacking the ACT and our economy and hurting Canberra families."
Federal shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon said Mr Joyce made the announcement without waiting for the results of a cost-benefit analysis ordered by Mr Turnbull.
"I think Barnaby Joyce, under pressure in his own electorate, has left the reservation here," Mr Fitzgibbon said.
"The Prime Minister obviously made clear he didn't want this done without a cost-benefit analysis.
"We've had no such report and yet Barnaby Joyce has gone and made this announcement."
Agribusiness lobby group CropLife Australia said the move would hurt the nation's agricultural productivity.
"It is also disappointing that the announcement of the APVMA relocation to Armidale in the minister's electorate has been made outside of the cost-benefit analysis process that was announced just two months ago, which is yet to be completed or publicly released," the group's chief executive, Matthew Cossey, said.
Animal Medicines Australia chief executive Duncan Bremner said he was worried about the consequences of the move.
"No one can deny that new regional jobs are a good thing," Mr Bremner said.
"The issue is whether there will be the appropriate people available to ensure the APVMA can continue its vital function.
"And unfortunately based on the evidence provided to Senate Estimate hearings last year by the APVMA CEO that only seven of the APVMA's 85 regulatory scientists were prepared to relocate, this highlights that our concerns are very real."
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