Barnaby Joyce says a slump in performance by the national pesticide authority is not due to its relocation from Canberra to Armidale

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce the new AVPMA office in Armidale.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce the new AVPMA office in Armidale.

A CRASH in performance has nothing to do with the national pesticide authority’s move from Canberra to Armidale, Barnaby Joyce says.

Statistics released by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s most recent quarterly report shows a slump in the percentage of assessments finalised within the statutory timeframes.

Only 58 per cent were finalised within deadline, compared to 62 per cent in the previous quarter.

“The APVMA’s performance has been an issue for a number of years, unrelated to relocation,” a spokesperson for the Deputy Prime Minister told Fairfax Media on Friday.

The spokesperson said the organisation’s interim CEO, Dr Chris Parker, recently announced an independent review of the agency’s operational performance to identify underlying causes for assessment delays.

“The independent Australian National Audit Office review found the current model, which Labor and its Shadow Minister wants to keep, severely lacking with reforms to cut red tape yet to be implemented,” the spokesperson said.

However, the overall timeframe performance statistics for 2016-17 was 69 per cent for products, actives and permits – up from 68 per cent for the previous year (2015-16).

“Timeliness is just one indicator of quality regulation and while this does not excuse the fact that our performance is not where it should be, the APVMA is committed to addressing the deficiencies,” Dr Parker said following the release of results last month.

“We must do better and we will.”

Figures aside, the controversial decision to relocate the agency from Canberra to Armidale has seen many staff pull the pin.

A national auditor released a report earlier this year, claiming the pesticides authority failed to consider the risk staff would resign over the move.

Almost one quarter, or 48, of the pesticides authority’s workforce resigned between July 2016 and February 2017, including 20 regulatory scientists, while the 57 staff who started were mostly non-ongoing, particularly in IT, case management and administration.

Despite this, the APVMA is “now open for business in Armidale”, the spokesperson for Mr Joyce said on Friday.

“The two new positions advertised by the APVMA for Armidale received strong local support with 65 applications and have both been filled.

“The APVMA is now currently recruiting from hundreds of applications including numerous strong applications from the Armidale region.”