THE Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has a new interim CEO who is a former farmer and seems likely to relocate from Canberra to Armidale.
Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce has named experienced public servant Dr Chris Parker as the replacement for Kareena Arthy who recently tendered her resignation, effective on May 31.
Dr Parker’s work history shows he has worked extensively in agriculture and the public and private sectors, holding various roles in different locations throughout Australia, before moving to Canberra.
He has also worked as a senior political adviser for two Agriculture Ministers in the Howard government.
Most recently he has been the Assistant Secretary of Plant Export operations at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and represented Australia as an agriculture counsellor on assignment at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC.
He is also a practiced veterinarian, has managed a family farm in WA and SA, worked for an agricultural chemical company and been a board member of representative bodies, including WoolProducers Australia.
“I look forward to working with him over the coming months,” Mr Joyce said.
Ms Arthy’s resignation came about amid escalating public controversy underscoring the APVMA’s relocation to Armidale in Mr Joyce’s New England electorate and significant criticism of the national farm chemical regulator’s poor performance amid the expanding loss of expert staff, especially regulatory scientists.
Mr Joyce says a merit-based recruitment process to find a permanent CEO’s position would commence soon.
It’s understood Dr Parker has indicated he would apply for that role and given his work history is likely to move to the APVMA’s new location in northern NSW, to help establish its presence and train regulatory scientists through an agricultural centre of excellence to be co-located at the University of New England.
Mr Joyce said Dr Parker would be appointed as interim CEO due to his valuable experience working in various professional fields, including government sector roles.
“This appointment will give the APVMA some certainty as it takes the next steps to build a world class regulator of agricultural and veterinary chemical products in regional Australia,” he said.
“This appointment also gives us time to complete a comprehensive merit-based recruitment process for a permanent APVMA CEO, to be based in Armidale.”
Mr Joyce thanked the outgoing CEO Ms Arthy for her leadership, skills and commitment to the APVMA’s operation since her appointment in 2013.
“During Ms Arthy’s time as CEO, she has led the APVMA’s implementation of the 2014 reforms to streamline regulation, better align regulatory effort with risk and improve registration and application processes,” he said.
“Ms Arthy also developed the APVMA’s relocation strategy and has commenced the preparatory work for the relocation of the APVMA to Armidale.”
Mr Joyce said the APVMA’s relocation to Armidale would deliver new jobs, increase the availability of skilled employees and increase the diversity and resilience of Armidale’s economy.
“Strengthening Armidale’s agricultural science focus is already realising positive outcomes, with two new regulatory science post-graduate degrees recently established by the University of New England to deliver a ready source of highly qualified future staff for the APVMA,” he said.
Mr Joyce said the Coalition government had embarked on a decentralisation program to grow jobs in regional Australia.
He said the Murray Darling Basin Authority, Grains Research and Development Corporation, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation had all instituted moves to increase their regional presence.
“A whole of government process will be undertaken to identify which government functions and agencies are suitable for decentralisation,” he said.
“No amount of communication can beat the understanding that comes from living and working in the communities we ultimately serve.
“I look forward to progressing this work to ensure our regions can thrive into the future.”
Mr Joyce announced the APVMA relocation during last year’s federal election campaign.
But Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has repeatedly slammed the move and the potential $60 million relocation cost, calling it a deliberate pork barrel in Mr Joyce’s home electorate, aimed at shoring up votes in Armidale where the Deputy Prime Minister struggles to win votes.