To pretend the APVMA is still moving to Armidale is a “cruel hoax”, Labor says.
That’s despite the announcement of the authority’s new CEO on Wednesday.
Interim CEO Dr Chris Parker will take on the permanent role to lead the agency’s move from Canberra to Armidale.
But Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon had his doubts whether the relocation was progressing at all.
“It isn’t here (and) I don’t believe it ever will be here,” Mr Fitzgibbon told Fairfax Media while speaking from the city’s library on Wednesday.
“People will try and pretend it’s here by putting three admin staff in Centrelink.”
But former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said he wanted to see it through.
“The Labor party are not going to move government jobs out of Canberra into Armidale,” he said.
“I’m doing that right now.
“We’ve got a new head of APVMA, he’s going to live in Armidale and he’s dragging people across.
“We had jobs on offer the other day and 450 applications for people who want to move here.
“We’ve got no problems finding people who want to move here.”
But Mr Fitzgibbon isn’t convinced as the authority’s performance rate struggles to reach target.
“This is a national issue and it’s now approaching a national crisis,” he said.
“If their capacity falls any further, our farmers won’t be getting crop sprays in a timely way, they won’t be getting animal medicines in a timely way.
“It even has implications for our exports because the APVMA plays a role in reassuring other countries that the chemicals being used on our export products is safe and has been properly approved.
“It’s a cruel hoax for Barnaby to pretend still that he’s moving the APVMA.
“He’s already got in place strategies which are an admission that it’s not coming here.”
The Labor frontbencher said Mr Joyce was setting up an IT network so Canberra staff can work at home, space at the Department of Agriculture to house staff and seeking advice on a deregulated regime.
“He’ll be farming the work out to certified private sector organisations,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
But Mr Joyce said having the APVMA in Armidale would encourage chemical companies to move to the region – providing a boost to the local economy.
But Mr Fitzgibbon said the vision was “laughable”.
“These very large multi-national companies … are not going to move to Armidale, but worse than that they are going to withdraw from the Australian market,” he said.