Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has approved moving the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from Canberra to Armidale, despite one in five regulatory scientists quitting rather than move.
The $25 million move has sparked allegations of pork-barrelling, given Armidale is in Joyce's electorate of New England.
A Senate Estimates hearing heard APVMA staff have been working out of the local McDonald’s because no office space was available. The hearing also confirmed a new facility would need to be built to accommodate the agency.
Incentives, including a 15% salary loading, had failed to either recruit qualified scientists or encourage current staff to move.