When the ludicrously inept Barnaby Joyce demanded that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) move to Armidale in his federal electorate of New England, he was told by just about everybody, except his coalition colleagues, that it was a fiasco waiting to happen. Even at the time it was clear that it was going to cost a bomb, many people would resign rather than go to Armidale, the disruption would impact the organisation’s work, and would make its liaison with industry groups more difficult. Indeed, the Agricultural Chemical Industry peak body CropLife asked the government to reconsider the move. These predicted shortcomings came to pass1.
As if this fiasco was not stupid enough, Joyce instructed that the staff remaining in Canberra were to be banned from having an office anywhere in Canberra or having anywhere else they could meet1. The purpose-built offices in Armidale should be completed in about 12 months, when the majority of staff will move from Canberra. However, it turns out that the APVMA will allow about a quarter of its staff (up to 40 people) to keep working in their Canberra office building, while subletting the extra space. Between the time of announcing the move, in 2016 when the authority had 198 staff, and now, over 110 of its employees have left the organisation, including 33 regulatory scientists.
This disgraceful pork-barrelling by Joyce demonstrates that he does not realise or care that organisations such as the APVMA are composed of people, people who have partners with careers, a circle of friends, children in school and university, with their own circles of friends. Still, that attitude should surprise nobody, given how unconcerned Joyce was with his marriage and the reputation of his current partner3. His only concern in the world is the advancement of Barnaby Joyce. The electors of New England should be embarrassed that he represents them in the federal parliament.