February 10, 2016 – 12:48PM
PUBLIC SERVICE REPORTER AT THE CANBERRA TIMES.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says decentralisation is “a real priority for this government”. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce will move public service jobs out of Canberra to parts of regional Australia.
On Wednesday Mr Joyce announced three Canberra based research organisations will have work shifted out of the national capital.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation, based in Barton at the foot of Parliament House, will have four offices outside Canberra at Dubbo, Toowoomba, Adelaide and Perth even though the GRDC recently signed a new lease.
AusTender documents say the 10-year, $12.2 million lease for the grains corporation’s office in Barton was signed in December 2013 and expired in 2024.
The Rural Industries RDC, also based in Barton, will shift its main operations to Wagga Wagga.
The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, based in Deakin, will establish a regional office in Adelaide.
“Decentralisation is not just an abstract idea but is a real priority for this government,” Mr Joyce said.
“Today’s announcement is tangible evidence of this election commitment being put into action.
“I have accepted proposals from three Canberra-based research and development corporations to increase their regional presence, which will boost jobs and growth in Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Toowoomba and other areas.
“As well as being home to vibrant farming communities, these regions also have some of the best agricultural universities and research facilities in the country.
“It is logical that strong links should exist between the RDCs, universities and farmers on the ground in each industry.
“Being geographically closer to the industries they serve will strengthen their relationships and help the RDCs better understand their individual industry’s needs.”
Some jobs would be left behind in the national capital but about 100 Canberra positions would be relocated with up to half of the existing jobs at each entity going to regional Australia.
Mr Joyce said the proposal to relocate the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, located in Symonston, to Armidale will go through the process of an independent cost-benefit risk analysis, which would then be looked at further by the government.
In May last year Mr Joyce announced intentions to relocate RDCs.
Later in the year a parliamentary committee heard it would cost $31.2 million to move grains corporation, $4 million to relocate the fisheries corporation, $6.4 million to move the pesticides authority and $2.5 million to shift the rural research corporation.
These figures were calculated when the regional relocation plan looked significantly different. Under the old plan GRDC was going to be moved to Wagga, RIRDC to Albury-Wodonga and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation to Hobart.
On Wednesday Professionals Australia ACT director David Smith said moving RIRDC to Wagga instead of the GRDC showed the plan had always been “complete pork barreling”.
Almost 300 staff were employed at these organisations in the ACT and last year the committee heard redundancies would be on the cards if staff did not want to move.
At the time Grain Producers Australia criticised his plans to spend $30 million – much of it coming from levies on graziers – to relocate up to 50 of the grains research corporation’s staff to regional Australia.
GPA wanted to see a business case, was concerned about disruption to GRDC and was worried growers levies being used to pay for the move.
Source : The Canberra Times