ONLY three staff have moved to Armidale since the APVMA was controversially moved from Canberra.
The senate estimates revealed that 15 of the organisation’s projected 150 staff are working out of Armidale, but only two of those have made the move from Canberra, while another is in the process of moving.
The agency expects to have “at least 40 staff based in Armidale by year’s end”.
I would anticipate the majority of those staff are leaving because they don’t want to relocate to Armidale.
Staff who relocate from Canberra are eligible for an up to $55,000 reimbursement for costs associated with moving.
APVMA CEO Chris Parker, who is currently living between Armidale and Canberra, said in this financial year 42 people have left the organisation, while the agency has “commenced 42 people”.
“Of those...nine regulatory scientists have left, and we’ve put on 16 regulatory scientists,” Dr Parker said
“I would anticipate the majority of those staff are leaving because they don’t want to relocate to Armidale.”
Senator Alex Gallacher asked Dr Parker if the APVMA had narrowed the new site down to the corner block on the Beardy and Taylor street intersection, however Dr Parker refused to answer the question.
“As I said, we are in negotiations for a lease with a preferred provider,” he said.
“When I have signed that lease and agreed the terms with that preferred provider, then we'll be making a public announcement of both the successful provider and the location of the building.”
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Dr Parker was also grilled about APVMA staff travel and accommodation arrangements when they stayed in Armidale, along with what was on the menu when the ARAC met out the Powerhouse Hotel – which is owned by Greg Maguire, the friend of New England MP and former Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
The senate committee also asked how the APMVA came to an agreement with disgraced TV personality Don Burke to create a series of promotional videos on biosecurity.
“We engaged Celebrity Speakers, who go and find some possible celebrities who are available to do it,” Department of Agriculture and Water Resources deputy secretary Lyn O'Connell said.
“I can’t tell you how many they identified. They did identify Don Burke as a possible candidate.”
Ms O’Connell said Mr Joyce had nothing to do with the arrangement.
The contract was subsequently cancelled without any videos being made, following allegations of sexual harassment against Mr Burke.