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.