Building a better, stronger APVMA

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority will remain in Armidale as the Albanese Government takes decisive action to strengthen the agricultural sector’s chemical regulator.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt travelled to Armidale today to release the Final Report on Future Structure and Governance Arrangements for the for the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), also known as the Rapid Evaluation, and the Government’s preliminary response.

The report, conducted by Mr Ken Matthews AO, was ordered after an independent review by Clayton Utz found serious and systemic cultural and governance issues within the APVMA between 2019 and 2022.

Minister Watt thanked Mr Matthews for his work on the Rapid Evaluation and all who had participated in the review.

“A strong, independent, well-functioning APVMA that is making the best science-based decisions, is vital to the future success of the agricultural sector,” Minister Watt said.

“We want to ensure that we have the world’s best chemical regulator, so that consumers and our overseas customers can have confidence in the food and fibre we produce.  

“At the same time, the APVMA needs to be structured so that it can independently and efficiently approve new, safe chemicals that help farmers do their job.

“This new, balanced approach is in stark contrast to the disproportionate focus on chemical approvals over compliance and enforcement which was driven by the Liberal-National Coalition Government.

“The Government supports many of the 33 recommendations in the Rapid Evaluation and will propose alternative ways to address identified problems for those that are not supported.”

Minister Watt said that, by maintaining the APVMA’s headquarters in Armidale, he would not be repeating the past mistakes of the Liberal and National parties.

“The disruption and chaos caused by Barnaby Joyce when he forcibly relocated the APVMA to his local electorate put a massive strain on the staff at the regulator, and according to the independent review ‘has had serious impacts on the performance and culture of the APVMA’.”

“We will not be making the same mistake.

“The APVMA will remain in Armidale, giving certainty to local workers and the local community.

“We do, however, intend to implement the Rapid Evaluation’s recommendation that we revoke the government policy order that required APVMA staff to be based in Armidale.

“Removing the order brings the APVMA in line with every other Federal agency and recognises the fact that a number of current APVMA staff are not based in Armidale.

“This move will ensure the APVMA can deal with existing recruitment challenges and get the best people for the job, regardless of where they live.”

Minister Watt said the Government had also decided the APVMA will remain an independent statutory authority.

“While Mr Matthews has recommended the APVMA be moved into the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and that the APVMA Board be abolished, I consider that retaining the APVMA as an independent statutory authority, with its own board, provides the best assurance of regulatory independence in the context of Australia’s agvet chemicals regulatory system.”

“The Government also believes that there are more efficient and effective ways to address the issues identified within the APVMA, some of which have already been implemented and which are already having a positive impact.

“These include:

  • A new Ministerial Statement of Expectations for the APVMA, which can be found here;
  • The APVMA expediting eight long-running chemical reconsiderations, as a result of my Ministerial Direction;
  • The APVMA releasing the APVMA Strategy 2030, which provides clear strategic direction; and
  • A new APVMA Values Statement and updated APVMA Board Charter.

“It’s been a tumultuous time for APVMA staff and management, and they’ve been working hard to implement changes and improve their culture and performance.

“I want to thank them for how far they’ve already come, and I know they will continue to build a better APVMA in the future.”

The Australian Government will release a full response to all recommendations made by Mr Matthews in mid-2024.

The Government has also set up the APVMA Reform Taskforce to develop and cost a detailed response that will identify further reforms to the regulatory system, that address other recommendations in the Rapid Evaluation.

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