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Govt's extraordinary regulation for Joyce

AAP logoAAP 25/11/2016

Barnaby Joyce's quest to move agricultural agencies to rural areas has been taken a step further with extraordinary new regulations bypassing parliamentary approval.

The deputy prime minister has been criticised over his push to shift the government pesticides agency to his electorate in Armidale from Canberra, facing accusations of pork-barrelling.

But a new regulation issued by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann this week stipulates any corporate commonwealth entity with agricultural policy responsibilities must be located in a regional community or close to a regional university's main campus if it's recognised in the field of agricultural science.

Mr Joyce wants to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to the University of New England's Armidale campus.

The regulation even specifies that Canberra doesn't count because it defines regional community as "not within 150 kilometres by road of Canberra or the capital city of a state".

There were concerns about the re-located agency's viability and whether it can attract dozens of crucial and hard-to-train regulatory scientists.

The agency itself has revealed morale amongst staff was low ahead of the move, with only 14 willing to leave Canberra and 110 others opposed.

Mr Joyce on Friday confirmed the relocation will cost $25.6 million over six years.

But he's adamant the move puts the agency at the heart of where "boots hit the dirt" in country Australia.

"Not only will the move modernise the APVMA, with a fresh digital strategy essential to its success but it will also provide unprecedented opportunity to young scientists," he said.

A temporary office would be set up by March 2017 and a new advisory committee will help staff who don't want to go.

Armidale had the NBN, excellent cafes, art galleries, a university, cathedrals, quality health services, small bars, quality schools and a welcoming community, Mr Joyce said.

Labor said it was a sad day for the agriculture sector, accusing Mr Joyce of putting his own political interest ahead of that of farmers.

"My advice to Barnaby Joyce is that he should know that his betrayal of rural and regional Australia won't be forgotten and to heed the message given to the Nationals in the Orange by-election," shadow agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said in a statement.

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