Pesticides authority head resigns after forced relocation to Barnaby Joyce's electorate
Kareena Arthy’s departure comes after 20% of regulatory scientists abandoned Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines authority in recent months
Kareena Arthy, the chief executive of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, informed the deputy prime minister of her decision on Thursday afternoon.
It leaves the APVMA bereft of leadership in a tumultuous time for the agency, with 20 of 100 regulatory scientists having already abandoned the agency in recent months. A spokeswoman for the APVMA said she could not comment.
It comes days after the Turnbull government’s surprise announcement that it wants to decentralise as many government departments as possible, moving the positions of city-based public servants to Australia’s regions in a dramatic reshaping of the bureaucracy.
Fiona Nash, the minister for regional development, said on Wednesday government departments would soon be asked to justify why they thought they were unsuitable for decentralisation if they did not want to relocate.
She called on corporate Australia to join the decentralisation drive, flagging it as a “long-term project”.
She said rural, regional and remote Australians deserved the careers and flow-on benefits offered by departments as much as capital city Australians did. Joyce’s office said it did not want to comment on Arthy’s resignation.
Joel Fitzgibbon, the shadow minister for agriculture, said Arthy’s decision to leave the organisation was a “huge blow” to existing staff, Agvet companies, and farmers.
“Ms Arthy is highly regarded and respected,” he said.
“Industry leaders will be fuming about this latest sad chapter in Barnaby Joyce’s relocation pork barrel.
“Ms Arthy’s departure will further undermine confidence in the APVMA and will most likely see more managers, scientists and lawyers follow her lead.
“The APVMA is crumbling before our eyes with financial costs of the relocation rising. It’s past time the Prime Minister acted by stepping in,” he said.
Joyce has faced sustained criticism for forcing the APVMA to relocate to his electorate of New England in NSW, which he announced during the federal election.
It provoked accusations of pork-barrelling, with the government’s own cost-benefit analysis showing the move would cost taxpayers $25.6m.
Joyce defended the move last month, following reports that public servants had been working out of McDonald’s in Armidale because of a lack of suitable office facilities.
On Thursday, Joyce said the government’s broader decentralisation plan would help public servants find more affordable housing as they moved to regional areas.
He dismissed the idea that the plan ought to be subject to a cost-benefit analysis, saying that shouldn’t be the sole determinant of government decisions.