Relocate to reconnect

The last thing the farm sector needs is civil servants closeted away inside Canberra's beltway

THE question is not whether the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) head office should be moved out of Canberra - but why the hell was it set up there in the first place?

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce wants to shift the GRDC’s headquarters to Wagga Wagga in the NSW Riverina.

And he plans to relocate the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from the national capital to Armidale in the NSW New England or Toowoomba in Queensland.

Good on him. And while he is dabbling in the removal business he should agitate to remove more statutory authorities from Canberra to the bush.

Why is the Murray-Darling Basin Authority based in Canberra? Albury would surely be a better location so its staff can mix with the people affected by their thinking and decisions.

And why couldn’t the economists and analysts of ABARES do their job from a home base in somewhere like Orange, Toowoomba or Ballarat?

There are stack of maritime and fisheries bodies including the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (which Barnaby wants to shift to Tasmania) and the Australian Institute of Maritime Science based in Canberra. Not much commercial fishing and maritime life in Lake Burley Griffin for them to worry about.

And does the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) really need to reside in Canberra?

Sensibly, the Cotton Research and Development Corporation is based in Narrabri and the Australian Grape and Wine Authority in Adelaide.

Ignore the predictable bleatings that the GRDC and the APVMA couldn’t possibly function properly beyond the borders of the ACT. They can and should.

One of the rural sector’s major problems is the disconnection of much of the wider community from the realities of agriculture. And adding to that challenge is the fact that so few federal politicians now have much of a clue about the bush.

So the last thing the farm sector needs is large numbers of civil servants closeted away inside Canberra’s “beltway” advising them on rural and regional issues.

Too much of a case of the blind leading the completely ignorant.

Get as many of them out into the real world where they can rub shoulders on a daily basis with Australian farmers and people in rural communities – not during a fly-in, fly-out every now and then.

Vernon Graham

Vernon Graham

is the group editor of Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


its remarkable
21/05/2015 6:32:23 AM

Interesting the see a picture of some wool accompanying the promo for this opinion piece. So, why are AWI and MLA both in Sydney. And I dont' suppose all the Fairfax rural journalists are located in country town either. BY the way, the GRDC does not do the actual research, they fund it, with most of it I guess being done in rural locations. IT is where the R&D is done that I am interested in, since that way it might be more relevant to me. Don't blow my levies on a relaocation that does nothing to enhance the R&D effort.
Pork Barrel Express
21/05/2015 7:59:40 AM

Brillant idea - spend wad loads of cash to relocate people away from the decision makers, then complain when there is no money left for the R&D that we need or for the politicians to get the advice that they need rather than want. The reason we have cities is that it is cheaper to run businesses that are dispersed from central hubs. But don't let good sense get in the way of the thought bubble.
21/05/2015 8:46:31 AM

I like the ideas.
Barbara Anne
21/05/2015 12:04:30 PM

Vernon, the beltway is a road that goes around DC there is no such road around Canberra. Why do you say there is when its blatantly obvious there isn't.
21/05/2015 1:46:36 PM

Barbara Anne: Get over yourself, he put it in inverted commas. The word 'Beltway' has become synonymous with out-of-touch centralised government.
21/05/2015 3:08:34 PM

The first question isn't hard to answer. Funnily enough grains research isn't concentrated around SW NSW. indeed it doesn't take much examination of the significant research programs to understand that a decision to base in the ACT makes eminent sense for the proximity to those programs as well as closeness to other key stakeholders. None of the key stakeholders (other than the Minister) thinks this is a good idea. What's worse blowing $30mil of growers levies on such a move and losing world class staff that risks the broader research program will do enormous damage to the broader industry.
Barbara Anne
22/05/2015 6:52:18 AM

Qlander, well I never knew that.
Peter Holding
22/05/2015 9:12:36 AM

Riddle me this. If this is a good idea why is that uninfluencial organisation, Minerals Council of Australia, in ACT and not the Pilbara. Must be all the big mines in Barton.
angry australian
22/05/2015 9:31:28 AM

A well written article, Vernon. Take the case of our marine "managers". Most have never met a fisherman, dealing with peak bodies who also haven't met fishermen. The fishing industry has a good case to say that it is far worse off today than when the AFMA Act was instituted in '92. Some industry estimates have put job losses at 10,000, mainly in rural towns like Pt.Lincoln, Portland, Eden or in Tasmania. There have been papers written showing that the cost of management is greater than the return to to the industry or taxpayer. Perhaps you should be asking do we need an AFMA, FRDC or AIMS?
angry australian
22/05/2015 10:13:36 AM

Peter Holding, the MCA, NFF etc need to be in Canberra if they intend to lobby politicians and influence government policy. Mobs like the R&D corps are a form of red tape and taxation on our primary producers deciding how to allocate "research" dollars. The job can be done from Nome, Alaska. In my opinion Barnaby has put the cart before the horse. There should be a review of the alleged benefits of pouring so many industry and taxpayer dollars into R&D over the last say 20 years. Anyone can do research, but unless our industries and nation profit, what's the point?
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A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.


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