Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Andrew MearesBarnaby Joyce says he’s pushing ahead with the Coalition plans to force relocations of government departments from Canberra, despite the policy seeing him cast as “the devil incarnate”.
A day after going to market for a permanent home for the relocated n Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority in his own electorate of New England, the acting Prime Minister said he’s faced opposition for trying to move public service departments and agencies from Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne to regional cities.
“So often we have to accept services being taken away from regional centres,” he toldThe Armidale Express.
“It’s amazing the fight I’ve had to deal with in moving services back to a regional centre.
“The Canberra Timeshas basically made me a key feature of their front page.I am the devil incarnate because I dare to have a belief for other places in apart from Canberra.”
Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Andrew Meares
The government is seekingbetween 2000 and 3200 square metres of office space in Armidalefor the authority, which is currently working from a temporary office and with an interim chief executive.
The new building must be within 10 kilometres’ radius of the University of New England campus and close to a commercial or retail precinct, with public transport links and car parking.
Despite more than 50 regulatory scientists and former chief executive Kareena Arthy leaving ahead of the controversial forced move, Mr Joyce said it was good news for the city.
“That’s great for the economy, that’s great for the shops in the mall, that’s great for the local district, it’s great for confidence in Armidale,” he said.
The authority is expecting staff to decide if they will join the move to Armidale towards the end of next year, with the final transition completed by July 2019.
Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie talked up the Coalition’s decentralisation agenda in northern Victoria this week, meeting with local councillors and calling for the private sector to invest in country towns and cities.
She said the Turnbull government wanted to help communities in the Indigo Shire – which includes Rutherglen, Chiltern, Beechworth and Yackandandah – to benefit from public service jobs.
“In Melbourne the average price of a house is approaching $1 million. In Wodonga, it’s much more attractive at $375,000 and in Chiltern that drops to an average of $230,000.
“So while re-located staff from Commonwealth agencies and offices would be located in the regional cities, they can live in a very attractive town like Chiltern which is just 20 minutes from Wodonga,” Senator McKenzie said.
Government ministers are beingrequired to justify keeping agencies and departments in their portfolios in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne by next month.
Cabinet will sign off on more forced moves before the end of the year.
Fenner MP Andrew Leigh said regional ‘s development shouldn’t hurt Canberra.
“Barnaby Joyce’s plan to force hard working public servants to move to his electorate will cost taxpayers more and deliver worse services,” he said.
“Pork barrelling jobs to the regions is bad for Canberra and bad for the nation.”
– withMadeline Link