REAL estate agents have been contracted to find the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority a new home in Armidale.
Labor has criticised Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, for pushing ahead with the election promise as the cabinet is yet to discuss the relocation.
Tender documents reveal the Department of Agriculture engaged JLL Corporate Solutions to facilitate the move, with 175 public servants set to leave Canberra for Armidale by late 2018.
The 2500-sq-m office must have a minimum of 30 parking spaces and access to 100 more.
Mr Joyce has refused to release the findings of the $272,000 cost-benefit analysis regarding the move, saying it must go before the cabinet before it is released to the public.
Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon called the appointment of real estate agents “extraordinary” given the cabinet was still considering the cost-benefit analysis.“It is extraordinary that after Scott Morrison's statements last week indicating this is anything but a done deal [Mr Joyce] asked his department to proceed with an arrangement like this,” he said.
But Mr Joyce said cabinet was "committed to the election policy" of government decentralisation. “The only issues for cabinet to resolve are the best and most cost-effective model for the relocation to ensure minimal interruption, and to ensure the APVMA is best positioned to provide improved services into the future,” he said.
Mr Fitzgibbon said moving the APVMA into Mr Joyce’s electorate was a “pork-barrelling exercise”. “It’s okay for Mr Joyce to look after his electorate, but not at the expense of the agriculture sector,” he said.
However, Mr Joyce dismissed the pork-barrelling claims, saying a number of government departments had been moved to electorates across the country. “We're putting RIDIC into Wagga, moving fisheries from Canberra into Adelaide, moving the Grain Research Development Corporation, into Adelaide and into Toowoomba,” Mr Joyce said.
“Yes [Armidale] is in my electorate, but it makes abundant sense that a university that focuses and has its expert knowledge in this area also have the capacity to work with APVMA. We did take it to an election, the Australian people voted for us and we're going to see it through.”