Decentralising the bureaucracy into the regions is not port barrelling

What’s wrong with moving bureaucrats to the regions?

In estimates Murray Watt accused the Coalition of pork barrelling when the APVMA was moved to Armidale. Given the APVMA serves regional Australia why shouldn’t it be in regional Australia?

Katie Gallagher has increased the Federal Bureaucracy by thousands since becoming the Finance Minister.

Given she is a Senator for the ACT how is this not pork barrelling?

Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority

Senator RENNICK: Yes—about remarks made by Minister Watt in regard to the idea that removing staff from the APVMA from Canberra to Armidale is pork-barrelling. Do you think that bureaucrats should all be based in Canberra? What’s wrong with sharing some of the economic benefits of having bureaucrats in other regional towns? Let’s face it, the APVMA is to do with regional Australia in the main. Why can’t regional Australia get some of the economic benefits of having government departments out in the regions? Surely it’s an insult to regional Australia when you mock the idea that bureaucrats moving to regional Australia is somehow pork-barrelling.

Senator Watt: I note that the two National Party members of this committee haven’t attempted to defend Barnaby Joyce’s pork-barrelling, so it’s interesting that you’ve bothered.

Senator McKENZIE: For the record, please don’t take our silence for assent, Minister.

Senator Watt: Which minister? The former minister, Barnaby Joyce, who did it, or this minister?

ACTING CHAIR: We’re doing really well this morning.

Senator RENNICK: Just to be clear, Minister, you’re saying that bureaucrats moving out to the regions is pork-barrelling?

Senator Watt: Chair, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been misrepresented or verballed in this committee over the last couple of days.

Senator McKENZIE: You actually said it’s pork-barrelling.

Senator RENNICK: You used the words ‘pork-barrelling’.

Senator Watt: Do you want me to answer your question?

Senator RENNICK: Go on: answer it.

Senator Watt: Of course I don’t oppose federal public servants being based in regional areas. I actually just made the point earlier that this department does exactly the same thing, and that’s a good thing. And so do many other agencies across government. What I do have a problem with is a minister relocating an entire agency to his own electorate, resulting in—I’ve forgotten; was it 90 per cent of the staff—resigning, the staff having to work out of a McDonald’s because that was the only place they could get wi-fi. It was a cluster. My friends at the NFF thought it was a bad idea. CropLife thought it was a bad idea. Everyone said it would be a disaster. But because Barnaby Joyce—

Senator McKENZIE: And it’s been a huge success.

Senator Watt: You reckon?

Senator McKENZIE: Look at the stats.

Senator Watt: Look at any of the report—

ACTING CHAIR: Let’s just let the minister finish.

Senator Watt: Under the leadership we’ve had over the last 12 to 18 months, it is being turned around. But it was a cluster.

Senator RENNICK: You just said it: after the move.

Senator McKENZIE: Minister, stop misrepresenting—

ACTING CHAIR: Everyone, just—

Senator Watt: If you want to defend all of the allegations that came to light in the reviews that we did, and if you want to say the culture of that organisation—

Senator McKENZIE: Are you saying that’s because it was in Armidale? Are you saying that’s Armidale?

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you, Senators. Stop yelling, Senator McKenzie. Everyone’s having their fun this morning.

Senator McKENZIE: You’re trash-talking the region.

Senator RENNICK: So it would never have happened in Canberra.

Senator McKENZIE: Nothing bad ever happens in Canberra.

ACTING CHAIR: Everyone, just be quiet. Order! I know it’s Friday morning. We’ve had a productive week. Minister, can you quickly finish your answer. Senator Rennick, you’ve got one more question, then I’m moving the call around.

Senator Watt: I’d just like to tally up one more—maybe it was twice more that I was verballed by the National Party senators.

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. Now, Senator Rennick.

Senator RENNICK: It’s inevitable as you move bureaucrats into the regions, given that most of the regions are held by Nationals or Liberals, that you can make that accusation of pork-barrelling wherever you put them. Regional Australia supports the coalition, so you’re basically accusing everyone who moves staff to the regions of pork-barrelling.

Senator McKENZIE: Is Katy Gallagher pork-barrelling with the 36,000 additional—

ACTING CHAIR: Order! Thank you very much, Senator McKenzie.

Senator Watt: Everyone told Barnaby Joyce this would be a disaster. It was a disaster, but it’s just one of the disasters we’re fixing up from the coalition.

Senator RENNICK: That’s not it. You can’t just call it a disaster.

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you, everyone.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Can I say something positive, Chair?

ACTING CHAIR: Excuse me. I’m trying to keep you guys under control so we can keep the program going.





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