Senate debates

Thursday, 10 August 2017


Finance and Public Administration References Committee; Report

5:39 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I take note of the Finance and Public Administration References Committee report, Operation, effectiveness, and consequences of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (Location of Corporate Commonwealth Entities) Order 2016. I would like to say a few words about the report. It was quite amazing when, earlier on, Senator Cameron was referring to the cost of houses and living et cetera. Here in Australia, in the cities—Sydney, Melbourne, and even Canberra—housing is extremely expensive. But it's not the housing; it is the land. The demand for land is where the money is. You might hear of a situation in Sydney where someone will buy a little wooden house on a block of land for $3 million. The first thing they will do is knock the house down and build a new house. They were after the land. The amazing thing is: what do we have more of per capita in Australia than do those in any other country in the world? We have plenty of land. In the cities it is a case of demand exceeding supply, and one day Senator Cameron might learn the actual economic fact that, when demand exceeds supply, prices rise.

My leader, Minister Barnaby Joyce, moved the APVMA out to Armidale. They welcomed it immensely. The Senate Finance and Public Administration Reference Committee held hearings in Canberra and Townsville, but not in Armidale, where the APVMA was to be relocated to. There were four Armidale submitters to the inquiry, but none were invited to appear as witnesses. It is amazing that we have the report of this Senate inquiry from the FPA, yet they did not even go to Armidale. Armidale is a dedicated hub that inspires innovation. It is home to the University of New England Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, the Agricultural Business Research Institute, the Poultry CRC, the Sheep CRC and CSIRO. The median price of a three-bedroom home is just $320,000. Compare that with Canberra prices. We talk about the Australian dream and of not being able to buy your own home. Move out to the country towns. You can buy a good three-bedroom brick veneer home on 700 or 800 square metres in Inverell, the town near where I live, for around $260,000. That wouldn't buy you a dog kennel in Sydney, because the land is in such demand.

Decentralisation is a very important issue, and that didn't start with Minister Joyce. In 1992, under Minister Armstrong, the Nationals in the New South Wales state government relocated the Department of Agriculture from Sydney to Orange. The New South Wales Labor government moved at least seven agencies from Sydney to regional areas between 2000 and 2005, including the Department of Mineral Resources, which was moved to Maitland. The Keating Labor government moved ASIC to Traralgon in the early 1990s. A key component of the government's 2016 election commitment was to create a centre of agricultural excellence with the University of New England and nearby research organisations such as the CSIRO, Meat & Livestock Australia and the Institute for Rural Futures. The APVMA is now open for business in Armidale, with a transition office in place, and the interim CEO is Dr Chris Parker. The process is underway to find permanent office accommodation to be leased from July 2019. I look forward to Minister Joyce pushing ahead with the relocation of the APVMA, which will form part of the centre of agricultural excellence.

What does it do when we move the people from Canberra to Armidale? It frees up housing so there's a bit more supply on the market. Hopefully, when we free this up and move people out to areas where we have the room and we have the housing, that'll help someone somewhere to get into a house. In conclusion, it's planned that the APVMA will go to Armidale—that's where it is. Yet I'm just amazed that four submitters from Armidale made a submission to this inquiry and the committee did not even go to Armidale. We look forward to decentralisation continuing. It will help regional Australia and free up a bit of space in the cities. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.