Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie says decentralisation not motivated by political self interest

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has come under scrutiny for the decision to relocate a government department to his electorate.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has come under scrutiny for the decision to relocate a government department to his electorate.

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THE move to relocate Australia’s pesticides authority to Barnaby Joyce’s electorate was not motivated by political self interest, Victorian Senator Bridget McKenzie believes.

A report from a Senate committee, dominated by Labor and the Greens, has called for greater accountability of departmental shifts and to halt the move of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority until a review is complete.

They found Mr Joyce was told two years ago that Toowoomba would be a more appropriate location for the APVMA, but he instead announced it would be moved to Armidale during last year’s election campaign.

The report also stated Mr Joyce ignored a cost-benefit analysis for the move, predicted to cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars for little benefit, and the move amounted to “political self interest”.

Ms McKenzie released her own dissenting report from the committee, claiming the committee’s report gave a “skewed view” of the issue.

She said 80 per cent of rural councils - including Bendigo - supported greater decentralisation, but very few of them were quoted in the final report.

“The majority report is filled with selective quotations from witnesses testimony designed to fulfil the objective of Labor Senators to scuttle both the relocation of the AVPMA and the government’s wider decentralisation program to regional areas,” Ms McKenzie said.

“Watch this space for a proper, balanced and focused decentralisation inquiry that will truly take the wishes of regional areas into consideration.”

Ninety-six of the APVMA’s 172 staff have left the authority since the move was announced.

The City of Greater Bendigo provided a submission to the committee, claiming a departmental shift to central Victoria could bring in $45 million to the local economy.

Ms McKenzie said the committee did not consider the wider benefits of decentralisation.

Her report concluded that any issues the APVMA was experiencing were present before the decision was made to relocate. She said there were a number of factual errors in the senate committee’s report.

Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters has previously claimed that no areas of Victoria were eligible to receive a governmental department relocation under terms established by the Coalition government.