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


that's not how things work Vernon
22/05/2015 4:11:31 PM

Couldn't agree more with pork barrel express comment above. Vernon, I'm amazed that someone who comments on rural affairs seems as ignorant of how things work as you do. What Barnaby is proposing may have some superficial appeal. But if it goes ahead, primary producers shouldn't then complain when: a) their levies go up to pay for it; and b) they lose effective advocacy with politicians, other industry bodies and government departments in Canberra. A public servant based in a country town won't liaise any more effectively with primary producers around Aust than one in Canberra can...
Pork Barrel Express
25/05/2015 9:05:49 AM

Angry - would you prefer to have your fisheries managed by the states? If so you might want to talk to the Port Phillip Bay fishers - who have found that local politics matters more than their jobs. I'm not a fan of ivory towers but there are economies of scale and synegies from having different sections of a company (or government) in the same city - this thought bubble from Barnaby is all about looking for ways to spend our money on areas of political importance to him. Of course if they move them to my town I'm all for it! We could do with the cash for votes.
angry australian
25/05/2015 11:53:25 AM

PBE actually both jusidictions are as bad as the other and both major parties are a disgrace in regard to fisheries (mis) management. It costs more to manage our fisheries from Canberra than the return to the nation by any measure. the SE Trawl industry which was a $100m industry in 92 is now struggling to top $50m.How can an industry pay 2015 costs with half of 1992 turnover? As for political decisions, both major parties made the same commitment prior to the last Vic election. In fact, in my opinion the Libs have arguably been far worse for our pro fishing industry than Labor!
angry australian
25/05/2015 3:07:40 PM

PBE, let me also add we don't need what are virtually overpaid clerks jobs being done in the high rent district of Canberra's Civic when the same job can be done by computer from say Eden, Devonport or Bridport. Fisheries policy is supposed to be made by the Department, although some would argue they have ceded that role to AFMA. The "Geelong Star" is a perfect example. Day to day management our fisheries is supposed to be done by AFMA. I don't think any AFMA managed fishery, Scallop, Shark, Squid, SET, GAB, Bluefin, ECT, Western Deep, EC Tuna, Small Pelagic etc is ahead of the financial ledger since 1992.
Pork Barrel Express
27/05/2015 8:03:06 AM

Angry - if AFMA was moved to Eden then Devonport and Bridport would complain that they are out of touch with fishers in those areas, how many boats are left in Eden - 4? and so how would that improve communications with all of industry? It would cost more to send AFMA staff to the ports or parliament for meetings etc. But securing Eden-Monaro votes makes political sence (if not economic). I also thought that AFMA was into co-management with industry and had managers in regional areas like Lakes Entrance? Of course we could force pollies to have their staff in their electorates not Canberra.
angry australian
27/05/2015 8:41:22 AM

PBE, your defence of AFMA and whether it should be relocated is as poor as the arguments put forward today in a national newspaper by John Kerin defending his "legacy". How many industries can survive a 30% increase in levy costs like AFMA imposed on some sectors this fishing year? AFMA sits in the rarefied air in Canberra away from its constituent clients and have no idea what is happening in our fisheries either financially or ecologically. As a model to manage natural resources I will argue that alongside the MDBA its a total failure except for the employment of bureaucrats.
Pork Barrel Express
28/05/2015 9:09:17 AM

Angry - AFMA constituent clients are the Australian Government which resides in the national capital of Canberra. Moving AFMA/DAFF/MDBA/whatever to a regional centre to satisfy either a politician or a journalist comes at a cost to the Australian people - both a short term cost and a long term one. Lets see the cost benefit analysis of this. Didn't NSW fisheries do something like this a few years ago? Was it a sucess? Did it deliver significant savings and improve services? Was it worth it?
angry australian
29/05/2015 7:06:06 AM

PBE, firstly read the explanatory memorandum that went with the FMA Act to see the intent of Parliament was the fishing industry would be the constituent clients. Then there are the written and verbal assurances from McColl and Stevens before AFMA was formed. But seriously are you really suggesting that we continue bankrupting an Australian industry so that ignorant bureaucrats can live the manner in which they've become accustomed in a major city? That a bloated bureaucracy that has more employees than license holders can continue to do as it pleases?
Pork Barrel Express
1/06/2015 3:21:48 PM

Angry - I don't support bloated bureaucracies, I agree with you that AFMA or who ever needs to be only as big as it needs to be to do it's job, and part of it's job should be funded by industry and part by the government as it is a public resource. But I don't agree with polititian wasting our public money to try to buy regional votes. If there is value in such a move - lets see the cost-benefit analyisis, rather than a thought bubble or another wagon to the PBE.
Pork Barrel Express
1/06/2015 3:33:32 PM

Others - AFMA is the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the objectives of the Fisheries Management Act 1991 (CWT) can be found at C2014C00258 eg. (1) The following objectives must be pursued by the Minister in the administration of this Act and by AFMA in the performance of its functions: (a) implementing efficient and cost-effective fisheries management on behalf of the Commonwealth; and... etc. As the recent super trawler saga has highlighted there are many sectors interested in Australia's fisheries and all want to be heard over the others.
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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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