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Regional Australians are being called on to “make it clear on why areas outside big cities deserve jobs” with the launch of Get Out of the City, a website collecting submissions on the issue of decentralisation ahead of a Parliamentary inquiry into the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to Armidale.

Driven by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and the National Party, the website is looking to drive discussion around decentralisation, the movement of departments of government or large organisations away from the major cities.

“Every town that has ever wanted Centrelink or a tax office, every town that has ever wanted a centre of excellence, every town that has wanted an agency such as the Grains Research and Development Corporation or the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, now is the time to make your voice heard,” the website states.

Minister for Small Business and Riverina MP Michael McCormack said the need for skilled jobs is a theme throughout regional Australia.

“I know there are small businesses waiting to be started and jobs waiting to be filled. It will also see more of our young people stay in or return to their hometown after University or training, which keeps the character and vibrancy of communities growing and sees more people involved in local sporting clubs and community organisations for the long term,” he said.

“Decentralising Government agencies brings more than millions of dollars of reduction in overheads for the Australian taxpayer and more than direct jobs into regional communities. It also brings opportunities to start, succeed and support our vibrant regional small business sector.”

McCormack pointed to the role the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has played in Wagga Wagga through its base in the region as an example, saying, “Investment in Wagga Wagga through the ADF has been part of the city’s character for generations. ADF and Defence personnel’s partners, families and friends have careers and dreams and have relocated to the region and started their own small businesses.”

However, the launch of the Get Out of the City Campaign comes as scrutiny over the move of the APVMA to Armidale grows.

The agency’s chief executive Kareena Arthy told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra earlier this week that her staff are working from an Armidale McDonald’s as they have not yet found a base following relocation to the region.

According to Arthy, the agency is searching for a temporary office, with a permanent base to be purpose-built as no existing facilities are suitable.

Arthy also told the hearing that 48 people have left the agency since last July; despite being offered pay rises and other incentives, Arthy believes that many simply did not want to move, while there was also concern around the future of the agency.

The Nationals’ focus on moving departments from Canberra has also been criticised, with Liberal sentator for the ACT Zed Seselja proposing Joyce look to the public service jobs held in larger cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

The upcoming Parliamentary inquiry will be examining the relocation of the APVMA and other Canberra-based agricultural agencies.

Image: Michael McCormack and Barnaby Joyce. Source: The Daily Advertiser.

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