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Monday, 2 December 2019
Page: 6637

Mr JOYCE (New England) (19:16): I just want to go through a few things and note some of the increases and greater efficiencies in the results of the newly relocated APVMA to Armidale. The results show: from the December 2018 quarter 85 per cent of product registrations, active approvals and permits were finalised within the time frame, up from 74 per cent in December 2017 quarter; 86 per cent of pesticide applications were finalised within the time frame, up from 72 per cent in the December quarter 2017; 80 per cent of veterinary product applications were finalised within the time frame, up from 71 per cent in the December quarter 2017; 57 per cent of major pesticide applications were finalised in the time frame, up from 49 per cent in the December quarter 2017; and 61 per cent of major veterinary product applications were finalised within the time frame, up from 40 per cent in the 2017 quarter. This is an example, amongst many, of how the proficiency of the APVMA, now it's bedded down in Armadale, is working better and continues to work better. There are in excess of 120 people now working in Armadale under the APVMA. It was not only a change in location but a change in philosophy. It was to create the centre of excellence at Armidale.

Why Armidale? Because there's the University of New England that has the course that trains people to work for APVMA. It was a logical nexus. The CSIRO is there. BASF, a massive German research company, has a research facility at Dungowan near Tamworth. It has close proximity to the grain growing areas, like Gunnedah; beef areas such as Corindi and New England; the wool areas such as New England; the cotton areas such as Narrabri; and right up to the tropical sugar cane areas, such as northern New South Wales and Queensland.

We are creating a centre of excellence and we are decentralising. That is one of the ethoses of the National Party and the coalition. It is amazing how vehemently this was fought against by those who want to continue on with the centralisation in the major capitals and in Canberra. I have no problems with Canberra. It's a marvellous, beautiful city—a great adornment and icon of our nation—but Canberra was only created by a process of decentralisation. Remember Canberra was to take away the sitting of parliament in Melbourne.

If you look back in the 1940s, we've had about 13,000 people here. We now have in excess of 385,000 people in Canberra. It has been a roaring success. The vast majority of the GDP of Canberra now does not come from the Public Service; it comes from private enterprise. But why should we only have the success once in our nation? We should have the capacity for the evolution of centres of excellence and the incorporation of government expenditures in multiple places across our nation, not just in a few.

This was a systemic move to break the ice—that decentralisation works. I can say that in discussions—and I keep in close association with those who are working with APVMA—they admit to the epiphany. They were sceptical at the start, but now that they're living in Armidale they think it's one of the best moves they've ever made in their life. They have more money to put in their pocket. They're on the same wage. They live in a cheaper house. They're closer to work. They spend more time with their family. They're merely a couple of hours from the coast. They're associated with the national parks. They have a culture of people who are dealing in the agriculture industry in a more profound way, because the essence of Armidale is as an agricultural centre of excellence. This is surely something we should be building on. We should have the courage to do this in other areas.

I also note that it was not just the APVMA that went to Armidale. With the National Party we set up the Regional Investment Corporation, the RIC, and that is based in Orange. Why Orange? Because Paraway financials are there—part of Macquarie Bank. The National Australia Bank rural lending section is in Orange. It seemed that the obvious place to create a centre of excellence in finance was in Orange. AgriFutures Australia was moved to Wagga, when I was the minister, to work in with Charles Sturt University. Sections of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority were moved to Wodonga, and I know that other parts of it have now been moved to other parts of our nation, to be on the system that they're supposed to monitor. A section of the GRDC, the Grain Research Development Corporation, was moved to Toowoomba near the grain-growing areas of the Darling Downs; a section was moved to Northam in Western Australia where it's important. This, once more, shows the proficiency of this government to be brave enough to go through the path of decentralisation.

The Labor Party would have everything in Sydney. It's an absurdity. It's funny, though, that when you dig down and you find that the minerals department, at a state level, was moved, lo and behold, to Maitland in the Hunter Valley. I've got no problems with that. It should be there; that's where the coalmines are. That's in the member for Hunter's seat. He seems to have left that part out. He seems to leave these strategic decisions that are advantageous to him behind.

I'm happy for the Labor Party to stick to their guns and say that they don't believe in decentralisation, to say that they don't believe in regional Australia, to show by their actions that they don't believe in regional Australia, to fight against the things that could assist regional Australia—whether that's divestiture powers to get cheaper power prices into regional areas or whether it's decentralisation or whether it's standing behind farmers during the drought—to always be a follower and never a leader in policy positions so as to make the lives of people in regional Australia better. If that is their forte and that's what they believe in, then so be it. But we will continue to fight for decentralisation, and there's no better representation of that than the move of the APVMA to Armidale.

The member for Hunter also mentioned the board and if we could nominate who is on the board. Well, the bill hasn't been through the parliament yet. We can't start nominating who's going to be on something for a bill that hasn't passed yet. That is basically emblematic of the member for Hunter. It is always a joy to debate the member for Hunter every Monday morning on Sunrise. It is a joy because I've never come across a person so ill-prepared for an interview over and over and over again in my life as the member for Hunter. His capacity to hear facts that are the truth and then try to debunk them, and then being able to stumble across himself as he tries to correct himself on national television, is always a great joy and adds so much to my life on Monday mornings to have him there. It's probably one of the reasons I suggested him, because I knew he'd be hopeless.

I also note that the member for Hunter had a massive swing against him. I think he only got 37 per cent of the primary vote—it was disastrous. They used to have a saying about the Hunter Valley, 'Looks like Canberra, votes like Cessnock' or 'Looks like Chatswood, votes like Cessnock'—noting that Cessnock is about as Labor as you can possibly get. It was absolutely Labor to the bootstraps. Well, they almost booted the member for Hunter out of Hunter because they could no longer see the Labor Party as representing them. It was a close fight between the member for Hunter, the National Party and One Nation as to who won that seat and, to be quite frank, we never thought that there was going to be a great chance. We completely underestimated the fervour of discontent that was apparent in places such as the Hunter and Central Queensland that completely switched off from the Labor Party. They do this precisely because of the things that the member for Hunter goes on about at the moment—railing against decentralisation, railing against people trying to get a fair deal on power prices and railing against the agricultural sector being supported with things like new dams which the Labor Party didn't ever bother building. I remember Chaffey Dam when I got back to New England.

The Labor Party succumb to the allure of Greens preferences in Balmain and, by so doing, are always obstinately against the development of anything in regional Australia—supporting excessive vegetation management guidelines; supporting environmental conditions that stop us from building things such as dams; and always standing in the way of things we fought for and delivered such as the financing for the Inland Rail. I note the member for Gippsland is here, who was the transport minister when we got the money for the Inland Rail—$10 billion. So many others talked about it; we got it. And we started that program happening, and what did the Labor Party do? They just talked about it. It was always a long-term goal for them—a long-term goal that never arrived in regional Australia.

So we hope that the APVMA is a template for other forms of decentralisation that we can deliver to regional areas. In delivering to regional areas, we can deliver greater opportunities. We can deliver the prospect that, if someone goes there, goes to high school there and goes to university there, they can then get a good job, a well-paid job, there. We create that centre of excellence so that people can come to a place such as Armidale and say: if you want to go to somewhere that is the apex of research and agriculture, then Armidale is the place to go—as long as the Labor Party doesn't get in and rid of it.