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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