Barnaby bails on forced Darwin move
Barnaby Joyce has backed down on his latest decentralisation plans, just days after they were announced.
The Deputy PM last Friday unveiled plans to move Melbourne and Geelong-based public servants from the Department of Agriculture to Darwin, where they would fill out a new $8 million “biosecurity hub” in the Northern Territory capital.
“This facility at Berrimah will help us replace some of the work we're doing in Geelong, so we're moving jobs and work from Melbourne to Darwin and that's a good outcome for the north,” Mr Joyce said at the time.
But by Tuesday this week, Mr Joyce's office was saying the forced move of staff from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) would not happen, and that jobs in the hub will be new positions.
“There will be no impact on the workload of AAHL given the projected increase in the need for biosecurity diagnostic testing and AAHL's role in doing confirmatory testing as an international reference laboratory,” a spokesperson said.
The Federal Government’s wider decentralisation plans – including the forced relocation of the national pesticides authority from Canberra to Mr Joyce’s own electorate of New England - continue.
Ministers are being called on to tell cabinet why non-policy jobs in their portfolios should not be relocated from sites in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne.
Business cases for more forced relocations are expected in coming months.
The Northern Territory government has questioned why the Coalition moved Australian Electoral Commission jobs away from Darwin, after 14 of 17 Darwin-based AEC jobs were moved to Queensland.
The Northern Territory has lost 15 per cent of its federal public service workers since 2013, more than any other jurisdiction.