Report urges caution

April 25, 2017

National Farmers' Federation chief executive officer Tony Mahar.

A Productivity Commission report has warned the Federal Government to be cautious of planned decentralisation of government departments, stating it may not have as big an impact as expected.

The Transitioning Regional Communities report released by the commission on Friday points to the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to Armidale in NSW, stating the relocation is ‘‘too small’’ to have an effect on regional communities.

‘‘Such initiatives are typically too small in scale to have any ‘discernible effect on an individual town’, as the jobs relocated have tended to amount to less than 0.1 per cent of the relevant regional centre’s labour force,’’ the report said.

‘‘(Research) found that there would not necessarily be overall net benefits from relocating jobs that, by nature, are typically most efficiently located in major urban centres.’’

An independent analysis of the relocation found that the relocation would impose a net economic loss of $23million to all stakeholders, including the Federal Government, and would ‘‘involve significant risks’’, mainly the loss of key personal.

‘‘Chief among these assessed risks was that the regulator would be unable to relocate or replace key executive, managerial and technical staff,’’ the report said.

‘‘This was echoed by the Community and Public Sector Union which expressed concerns that the regulator would lose a large proportion of its scientists, as most of them would be unwilling to relocate from Canberra to Armidale.’’

The relocation of the authority has received mixed reactions from industry, with a National Farmers’ Federation submission to a Senate inquiry into the decentralisation of government authorities and departments stating the group had ‘‘reservations’’ about the Armidale relocation.

In the submission, NFF chief executive officer Tony Mahar said the organisation held concerns about how the move would impact the authority’s services.

‘‘The NFF continues to have reservations that the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority will have a negative impact on services, performance and business continuity,’’ Mr Mahar said.

‘‘If current rates of approval of agvet chemicals decline, Australian farmers will be at a disadvantage in the global marketplace by not being able to access state-of-the-art agvet chemicals, thus being unable to benefit from the on-farm productivity and efficiency gains that could be realised by using said chemicals.

‘‘This is, and remains, a major concern to the farming/agricultural sector.’’

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