‘These cuts are savage’:

A RETIREES LETTER TO THE PRIMINISTER

Dear Malcolm,

You obviously do not understand what is happening with the impending savage cuts to the age pension.

You have joined the chorus of your ministers condemning the recent automated phone call sponsored by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, claiming they are scaremongering “on the eve of Christmas”. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

The caller says, “I’m worried about my dad”, and goes on to explain: “He’s a retiree on a fixed income and really needs the pension just to get by each week.”

Newly-minted human services minister Alan Tudge has the unhappy task of sending out the letters. Photo: AAP
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has the unenviable task of overseeing the cuts. Photo: AAP
This is perfectly true for many thousands of Australians. It is not scaremongering — it merely alerts pensioners to what may be about to happen to them.

Alan Tudge, the Minister responsible for Centrelink, displayed his ignorance when he called on Labor leader Bill Shorten to distance himself from the “disgraceful union campaign”, and went on to say on ABC radio that the changes would “rebalance the system” and that only pensioners with high assets would be “negatively affected”.

He, too, could not be further from the truth.

The changes unbalance the pension system and savagely reduce the pensions of homeowners the moment their total assets exceed the new exempt thresholds of $250,000 for singles and $375,000 for couples.

My attached chart shows that the current asset and income tests reduce the pensions of homeowners faster than their investments produce income so that, when their assets reach the cut-off points, the total income is significantly less than the full age pension.

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These figures include the personal possessions as well as the life savings of pensioners. Their part-pensions are absolutely necessary to cover their daily living expenses.

In an effort to belittle homeowners and justify their harsh treatment, they are often described as living in multi-million dollar mansions. Whilst this is true of a few pensioners, it must be remembered that the Social Security Act says that a pensioner is a homeowner “if they are living in … a campervan, caravan, transportable home or boat in which they have reasonable security of tenure”. There are thousands of pensioners in this situation.

Singles with $300,000 additional assets and couples with $450,000 additional assets lose their entire pensions ($22,804 per year for singles and $34,382 per year for couples).

‘Not enough warning’

Centrelink has failed to properly inform pensioners about the savage cuts, so many are waiting with bated breath for their January payment to learn their fate.

pensioner-letter

Mr Tudge recently claimed his department had clearly communicated the changes with pensioners, saying they had been “forecast for 18 months” and that affected pensioners had received two notifications: a warning their pension might be impacted, and then formal notice if it would be.

In fact, the first letter, sent in October, went to only some pensioners telling them about the changes “which may affect you”.

All pensioners should have been told precisely how their pensions were going to be affected, based on the current records held by Centrelink.

Also, not everyone who received an October letter has received a confirmation letter in December, so many are left wondering if they are unaffected or whether their letter has been delayed.

‘We can’t get through’

The December letters tell pensioners they must inform Centrelink “as soon as possible” of any changes to their financial circumstances.

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Mr Parry says the phone lines are clogged. Photo: Getty
Any changes will, of course, change the amount of pension. I attended a free seminar on November 8 and we were told by a Centrelink officer that we should be quick to contact Centrelink because there was a backlog of four months in dealing with correspondence and it was near impossible to make phone contact (as was suggested in the October letter).

There has been a serious breach of natural justice. Pensioners have not been fully informed of their rights.

I recently tried phoning the nominated Centrelink phone number to discuss a query. A financial officer answered after 29 minutes, then after spending 10 minutes getting nowhere I was advised to go online. After 10 minutes on the Centrelink website describing my query the screen suddenly told me “time has expired” and I was disconnected.

Abbott’s broken promise

Former prime minister Tony Abbott successfully delayed the compulsory super increase when he was in power. Photo: Getty
Former PM Tony Abbott promised no pension cuts, then legislated them. Photo: Getty
Malcolm, the most deplorable fact is that no mention is being made of the solemn promise made by Tony Abbott on the eve of the 2013 election that, if elected, “there will be no changes or cuts to pensions”.

Mr Abbott was supported in that pledge by Joe Hockey, who became the Treasurer, and Scott Morrison, who became the Social Services Minister in December 2014 and the Treasurer in September 2015.

You say: “Our older Australians should be respected, not deliberately frightened for political gain.” Don’t you also agree they should be treated honestly, with promises delivered faithfully?

What the PM must do

Malcolm, if you really want to show true leadership and earn the respect of all Australians, you should immediately admit Mr Abbott’s legislation was a blatant breach of an election promise and grossly unfair.

You should give pensioners a real Christmas present by announcing you will honour Mr Abbott’s promise by deferring any change until the new Senate has the chance to hold an extensive enquiry.

The first payments slashing age pensions do not occur until January 17 so there is still ample time to tell Centrelink to hold off.

Robert Parry is a retired chartered accountant living in Victoria. This letter has been emailed to the Prime Minister’s office. The published version has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

HAPPY HOLIDAY TO ALL READERS OF ‘COFFSOUTLOOK’

The team at COFFSOUTLOOK wishes you peace, joy and prosperity throughout the coming year. Thank you for your continued support and partnership. We look forward to working with you in the years to come.

During this season, we take time to reflect upon the good things we have… like our partnership with you. We appreciate working with you and hope that the holidays will refresh us all.

During the holiday season, our thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made our success possible. It is in this spirit that we send best wishes for the future.

As we look back upon the past year, we would like to acknowledge those who have helped us shape COFFSOUTLOOK for a great year.

When we here at COFFSOUTLOOK think of all the benefits of being in our business, trying to share news and information we quickly think of our relationships with our readers. You are giving us the chance to do what we enjoy.

As the holiday season is upon us, we find ourselves reflecting on the past year. We hope that 2017 will be just as memorable for you, your colleagues and your loved ones as this year has been for us.

The end of the year brings no greater joy than the opportunity to express to you season’s greetings and good wishes. May your holidays and New Year be filled with joy. At this special time of year, we give thanks for readers like you who have made our jobs easier and our lives more fulfilling. Thank you for being you and we appreciate the trust you have placed in us.

AT COFFSOUTLOOK we are going to take a four week break but would like to make it clear that we will be keeping a watch on what is happening in Coffs Harbour and our City Council. If items occur that we feel are important we will certainly make sure that the reading community of Coffs Outlook are kept up to date.

We would like to take this opportunity to invite all readers of COFFSOUTLOOK to suggest any other items they feel we should consider investigating. We would like to suggest that you consider writing a column on a particular subject and we also remind all readers that their comments on the content of COFFSOUTLOOK are most welcome and make interesting reading for all.

Donations towards the running costs of CoffsOutlook would be greatly appreciated.
CoffsOutlook is run by local volunteers and we need your support keeping us on line and up to date with local and national news daily.

If you would like to donate to CoffsOutlook your donation will be very gratefully received.

Donations of news can be mailed to hughsaddleton@gmail.com and financial donations to Coffs OutLook at St.George Bank:
BSB 112879
Account No.054185506.

Please let us know if you require a receipt.

Thank you dear friends and supporters. Please keep up your support so we can keep spreading the message.

Hugh Saddleton.

FRASER CONGRATULATES 2016 HSC STUDENTS

Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, would like to congratulate local students on their HSC results, released today.

Mr Fraser said that students should feel very proud of their achievements.

“The HSC is a rigorous and demanding credential with a world-class reputation that prepares our students for life beyond school,” Mr Fraser said.

“I wish all students the very best in their future endeavours, whether they are planning to head to university, vocational education or to join the workforce.

“A number of students in the Coffs Harbour electorate are among the distinguished achievers in this year’s HSC and one student from Coffs Harbour Christian Community School, Miss Isabelle Ferguson, placed first in the state in the course Indonesian Beginners.

“77,000 students sat at least one HSC subject this year, so to be on the distinguished achievers list is an incredible achievement that students should be very proud of.

“For those students who didn’t get the results they hoped for, there are other options available.”
Among this year’s HSC results:
· A record 55,961 students are eligible for university entry;
· 1,619 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, the highest ever, achieved their HSC; and
· A record 37,781 top band results awarded to students.

Students can download their certificate and other HSC credentials from 21 December. HSC certificates will arrive by post from 20 January 2017.

Students with questions about their results can call the HSC Inquiry Centre on
1300 138 323.
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For media comment contact Andrew Fraser on 6652 6500 or 0427 241 522

SERVICES AT YOUR FINGERTIPS OVER THE HOLIDAYS

With the busy holiday season upon us, residents of the Coffs Harbour electorate can save time by completing transactions online quickly and easily via the Service NSW website or app.

Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser said more than 1 million customers have signed up to MyServiceNSW accounts, taking advantage of the hundreds of services and transactions available through the digital network”.

“Over the holidays customers want to spend their time outdoors and relaxing with family and friends. Offering hundreds of transactions online means we’re making it easier for customers make the most of their summer,” Mr Fraser said.

“Customers can go online or download the app to complete transactions such as renewing a licence or vehicle registration, applying for digital fishing licence or notice of disposal”.

Customers with a linked MyServiceNSW account can also use the app to receive, view or pay vehicle fines, update their licence details, set reminders for their licence or registration renewal and conduct a free registration check.

“Service NSW is listening to customers’ needs and improving services at the same time. The digital services have streamlined processes for customers whilst keeping their sensitive information safe,” Mr Fraser added.

“With the festive season fast approaching, it’s important to plan ahead and top up your E-Toll accounts, check your demerit points, check your vessel registration or purchase a National Park Pass. Service NSW will operate special trading hours over the festive period.

· Christmas Eve, 24 December CLOSING at 12:30pm
· Christmas Day, 25 December CLOSED
· Boxing Day, 26 December CLOSED
· 27 December CLOSED
· Public holiday, 28 December CLOSED
· Public holiday, 29 December NOMRAL HOURS
· Business as usual, 30 December NORMAL HOURS
· New Year’s Eve, 31 December CLOSING at 12.30pm
· New Year’s Day, 1 January 2017 CLOSED
· Public Holiday, 2 January 2017 CLOSED

Normal trading hours will resume from 3 January, 2016. Please use the locator page on Service NSW’s website www.service.nsw.gov.au. to find information on your nearest service centre.

To download the mobile app, visit the iTunes Store or Google Play.

NEW CODE TO PROTECT INEXPERIENCED HORSE RIDERS

The Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, today welcomed the announcement of a new Code of Practice to help reduce horse-related injuries and fatalities among novice and beginner riders in NSW.

Mr Fraser said the new Code of Practice is the first of its kind in Australia and is designed to assist employers and workers in the horse industry reduce injuries and meet their workplace safety responsibilities.

Of the 133 fatalities that occurred Australia-wide between 2000 and 2014, 18 per cent involved people under the age of 20.

“The Code will help prevent horse-related injuries and fatalities among beginner and inexperienced riders and aims to ensure that the temperament of the horse and the experience of the rider are adequately matched,” Mr Fraser said.

“The Code has been developed following extensive consultation with more than 100 responses to calls for comment from key industry groups and individuals.”

“Numerous businesses across the state offer horse-related activities and this Code will provide them with the practical tools they need to ensure they are complying with their obligations and doing everything they can to prevent injuries and fatalities,”

“The NSW Government is are committed to improving safety for inexperienced and novice horse riders, such as those participating in pony clubs, at jackaroo and jillaroo schools and trail riding schools,” Mr Fraser said.

The Code includes practical tools such as a checklist for riders and a checklist for horses, to evaluate the level and skill of the rider and also to help assess the suitability of the horse for the activity being undertaken.

The Code of Practice follows extensive consultation with stakeholders and individuals. It will come into effect on 1 February 2017. The Code of Practice is available from www.safework.nsw.gov.au

A NEW BEGINNING FOR STRATA LIVING

Once-in-a-generation reforms to the state’s strata title laws have now come into effect, to reflect contemporary strata living and to cater for future demand.

The reforms include more than 90 changes to the laws and affect 1.2 million people living in over 75,000 strata schemes across NSW.

Key changes include:
· Providing a flexible and fair mechanism for collective sale and renewal;
· Making it easier for owners to complete cosmetic and minor renovations;
· Modernising rules to help prevent proxy farming;
· New provisions addressing the perennial issues of parking, pets and smoke drift; and
· Introducing a defects bond (to come into effect July 2017) to fix building defects early in new developments.

“By 2040 about half of people in NSW will either be living or working in strata. We need modern and flexible laws that reflect 21st century strata living,” Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser said.

“The last major amendments to strata law happened 20 years ago – the face of our state has changed dramatically since then and the new laws better reflect the way people live and work in 2016 and beyond.”

The reforms follow extensive public consultation over a five year period, with more than 3,000 submissions received from the public and stakeholder groups.

To learn more about the new laws and how it affects you, visit www.stratalaws.nsw.gov.au or call the Strata Hotline on 1800 214 023.

FUNDING TO BOOST ROAD SAFETY IN COFFS ELECTORATE

FUNDING TO BOOST ROAD SAFETY IN THE COFFS HARBOUR ELECTORATE

Coffs Harbour electorate residents are set to receive a safety boost, with Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser today announcing funding for local safety projects as part of the NSW Government’s $1.6 million Community Road Safety Grants Program.

Local organisations Anglicare and Rotary Club of Woolgoolga have each been awarded a safety grant to deliver road safety projects that will help increase road safety awareness and support safer road use in the community.

The Rotary Club of Woolgoolga will use the grant to launch a Youth Driver Awareness day with local Year 11 students, while Anglicare will run a ‘Road Safe in Oz’ program to inform humanitarian entrants about road safety in Australia.

“This is great news for the Coffs Harbour electorate community and there is nothing more important than safety on our roads,” Mr Fraser said.

Mr Fraser said the NSW Government is committed to supporting local organisations that deliver vital work to help keep our communities safe.

“We all have a role to play when it comes to road safety but there are some special organisations in our communities that go above and beyond this call.

Mr Fraser encouraged all members of the Coffs Harbour electorate community to play their part and get involved in local road safety events.

“These safety grants will allow Anglicare and Rotary Club of Woolgoolga to develop engaging road safety projects with other local groups and encourage road safety awareness in the Coffs Harbour electorate community.”

“Our communities have specific road safety issues that can be addressed through local campaigns or events so these grants will really give a helping hand in spreading important road safety messages,” Mr Fraser said.

The Community Road Safety Grants Program builds on a number of other road safety initiatives being delivered by the NSW Government including the Safety Town website for primary school students and children, Safer Drivers Course for ‘L’ platers and the Plan B Campaign for adults.

More information about the grants is available at: roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/.

Coffs Harbour City Library

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In This Issue

Summer Reading Club
Christmas and New Year Closures
eResources
Wrap With Love
Collection News – Magazines
Coming Soon

Brought to you by Coffs Harbour City Library

ENRICH • INFORM • CONNECT
libraries.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au

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Summer Reading Club
Join the Summer Reading Club today!
Our children’s Summer Reading Club is on again!

The theme for this year’s Summer Reading Club (SRC) is “Heroes and Villains” and we’re encouraging all school-aged children (including those starting Kindergarten in 2017) to join in the fun.

Children can participate by joining online or, by calling in to Coffs Harbour, Toormina or Woolgoolga libraries. All members will receive a kit containing summer reading ideas, a reading log and fun activities.

Visit the library website for more information on the Summer Reading Club.

Throughout January we will be holding activities for members of the SRC:
Make a Mask
Tuesday 10 January, 10am – 11am, Harry Bailey Memorial Library
Discover Local Heroes & Villains
Friday 13 January, 10am -11am, Coffs Harbour Regional Museum
Summer Reading Club Celebration Movie Night
Tuesday 24 January, 6pm – 8:30pm, Harry Bailey Memorial Library

Christmas and New Year Closures
Happy Holidays!!
Harry Bailey Memorial Library, Toormina and Woolgoolga libraries will be closed:

Friday 23 to Tuesday 27 December, opening Wednesday 28 December
Monday 2 January, opening Tuesday 3 January
Children’s Storytime will not be held during the Christmas period but will recommence from Tuesday 3 Jan.

From all of the staff & volunteers at Coffs Harbour Libraries we wish you a safe and happy Christmas & New Year.

eResources
Don’t forget the library’s e-resources over the Christmas break!
If you are too busy during the holiday period to come in to the library don’t forget you can access the library’s eResources from home.

Zinio
The library subscribes to the Zinio online magazine lending facility, which has a fantastic selection of online magazines to download and read.

beamafilm
Stream your favourite documentaries and independent feature films.

cloudLibrary
Access hundreds of popular eBooks & eAudiobooks through the cloudLibrary digital lending platform.

Wrap With Love
Thank you to all our generous knitters for their contribution to the Wrap with Love program
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to Wrap With Love in 2016.

Wrap with Love Inc is a not for profit organisation incorporated with the Department of Fair Trading, NSW, Australia. Finished wraps are distributed by non-denominational and non-political aid agencies to those in greatest need both locally & internationally.

In 2016 Coffs Harbour contributed 541 wraps to the project, THANK YOU to everyone involved.

Collection News – Magazines
New magazines at Coffs Harbour Libraries
Coffs Harbour Libraries have recently updated our magazine collection, adding new titles to the collection.

Some of our new titles include:

Outdoor Design & Living
Active Retirees
British Archaeology
Australian Healthy Food Guide
New Philosopher
Home Grown
GQ Australia

For the kids
Mania – The hottest kids’ mag in Australia, MANIA is engaging, informative and educational.

Double Helix – The Double Helix is expertly written, fascinating and fun science material for children.

Search the CATALOGUE to reserve an issue today.

Coming Soon
Coming Soon
Upcoming Events at the Library

Saltwater Freshwater Public Art Program
During January the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery will host the Saltwater Freshwater Arts exhibition and run many events including Aboriginal storytelling sessions in the Harry Bailey Memorial Library.

Book Launch – Patricia Degens
Wednesday 25 January
Local Patricia Degens will launch her newly published personal account of the Australia-Japan Society of Coffs Harbour.

Yarn & Yak Mornings
Starting in February, Harry Bailey Memorial Library will host Yarn & Yak mornings for knitters on the first Tuesday of each month.

Eddie Obeid to be sentenced off Circular Quay corruption

t’s Judgment Day for Eddie Obeid as he learns whether he will be jailed over his secret business deals. The disgraced former Labor powerbroker will be handed his sentence today after being found guilty of misconduct in public office.

Makes no difference’

It makes no difference to Obeid’s criminality whether he was acting to advance his own financial interests or those of his family, Justice Beech-Jones said.

The penalty

Now we’re getting down to it. Justice Beech-Jones is setting out the principles for sentencing Obeid.

In NSW the offence of misconduct in public office is not codified in an Act of Parliament – it is simply part of the common law (law made by judges).

That means the maximum penalty has not been set out in legislation and is technically “at large”, meaning life.

But in other states where the offence has been codified the maximum penalty is about seven years. This is relevant but the court is not “limited” by that, Justice Beech-Jones says.

He says there is “no difference in substance” to a politician receiving a bribe to advance someone else’s interest and using their position to line their own pockets.

Kate McClymont ✔@Kate_McClymont
Judge points out there is no maximum penalty for the common law offence of wilful misconduct in public office #Obeid @NSWSupCt
10:43 AM – 15 Dec 2016

‘Solely motivated’ by self interest

Justice Beech-Jones said he directed the jury that they could only find Obeid guilty of misconduct in public office if they were satisfied he was not acting “in any way” in the public interest.

They returned a guilty verdict and accordingly were convinced he was “solely motivated” to benefit a family company that held the cafe leases, “and through it himself and his family”.

Justice Beech-Jones said that, in light of Obeid’s experience in Parliament, it is “inconceivable he would not have known” he could not use his position for his own benefit.

‘Exquisite timing’

Justice Beech-Jones says it is “overwhelmingly likely” Eddie Obeid was aware his family had a substantial financial interest in two Circular Quay cafes when lobbying for tenants on the wharves.

The jury rejected the evidence of Obeid’s son Damian that his father was not told about the running of the businesses.

Justice Beech-Jones notes the “exquisite timing” of Obeid’s phone call to maritime bureaucrat Steve Dunn, which suggested he had a very close knowledge of the running of the businesses.

The jury found Obeid did not reveal his family’s interest in the cafes when urging Dunn to speak to a commercial negotiator acting for tenants seeking a renewal of their leases without a competitive tender.
Crucial phone calls

Justice Beech-Jones notes a series of telephone calls between Eddie Obeid and Steve Dunn, his friend and a senior bureaucrat in the NSW Maritime Authority.

Obeid called Dunn in 2007 and asked him to speak to a commercial negotiator acting for a group of leaseholders at Circular Quay. Justice Beech-Jones says that “at no time” did Obeid tell Dunn the negotiator was also acting for the Obeid family.

“The way in which Mr Obeid would make sure he got his point across was to speak in quite colourful language. He would often swear. I do recall the language being strong,” Dunn said during the trial.

“At the end of the conversation, I was left in no doubt that Mr Obeid would like me to make contact with [the negotiator] and to meet with him.”

Envelopes of cash

Justice Beech-Jones is working methodically through the evidence presented to the jury.

He notes that Eddie Obeid’s eldest son Damian insisted his father was not told anything about the day-to-day running of the families’ businesses at Circular Quay.

But the court heard evidence that envelopes of cash marked “Dad” were given to the Obeid family patriarch.

It is on

Justice Beech-Jones is on the bench and delivering his decision.

He notes the sentencing has been delayed because of Obeid’s ill health.

9:56am on 15 Dec 2016
Brace yourselves

We are in for a long morning. Obeid, dressed in a navy suit and blue tie, is in the dock in court five in the historic Darlinghurst Supreme Court.

Justice Robert Beech-Jones’ sentencing decision is expected to take two hours. Stay with us.

9:47am on 15 Dec 2016
One we prepared earlier

“I like Mercedes. Is there anything wrong with that?” Eddie Obeid once piped up in one of his many appearances at the ICAC.

But this morning he was driven from his Hunters Hill mansion, Passy, in a white Range Rover.

Herald photographer Kate Geraghty was on the scene.

Barnaby Joyce won’t release analysis of forced relocation of public servants to Armidale

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has refused to publicly release a cost-benefit analysis of the effects of his decision to move 175 public servants from Canberra to Armidale.

Mr Joyce had previously admitted to Sky News that the analysis of the forced relocation of Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority did not outright support the move.

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At most, 10 scientists will actually move to Armidale to keep their jobs at the APVMA under Deputy Prime Minister …
At most, 10 scientists will actually move to Armidale to keep their jobs at the APVMA under Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s proposal.
But asked on Sunday ABC’s Insiders program if he would release the analysis, Mr Joyce said: “I don’t think at this stage”.

“The cost benefit analysis is complete and in some areas it’s indeterminate, some areas it’s saying it’s of benefit, other areas it’s saying it’s not of benefit,” he said.

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It remains unclear what the basis for the decision to relocate the staff was, given they would move from the nation’s capital to one of the regional New South Wales towns in the heart of Mr Joyce’s New England electorate.

“Yes it is in my electorate but it makes abundant sense that a university that focuses and has its expert knowledge in this area also have the capacity to work with APVMA and yes, I do believe in developing regional towns,” he said.

Mr Joyce said while the analysis was completed before the election, “the decision has been made” and “the Australian people” had had their say at the election.

Greens agriculture spokesperson Senator Janet Rice said Mr Joyce should release the analysis.

“Right now, it appears Mr Joyce is uprooting the lives of nearly 200 specialist staff and their families for his own political purposes,” she said in a statement.

“Unless the Acting Prime Minister releases a positive cost-benefit analysis, we can only assume that moving these families over 700km to his own electorate is pork barrelling at its most blatant.

“A negative cost-benefit analysis would be an unforgivable waste of taxpayer money.

Professionals Australia ACT director David Smith has previously said any value in moving the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority 750 kilometres north was questionable, given a $24.1 million commitment for relocation costs and potential redundancy liabilities of up to $10 million.

Mr Smith said he expected little had changed since a staff survey in mid-2015 found about 110 people would not uproot their lives to go to Armidale in Mr Joyce’s northern NSW electorate.

As well as the union, agribusiness and veterinary medicines lobbies, the ACT government and federal opposition have panned the idea, and even Mr Joyce’s ally, the National Farmers’ Federation, has expressed reservations about the plan.

ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja has also publicly criticised Mr Joyce’s decision.
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