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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee - 09/02/2016 - Estimates - AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES PORTFOLIO - Animal Health Australia

Animal Health Australia

[17:33]

Senator STERLE: Ms Plowman, you heard my line of questioning earlier. Do you want to tell us why it was not beneficial for you guys to amalgamate with the plants?

Ms Plowman : Certainly. Obviously I cannot comment on the operations of Plant Health Australia, in terms of their own savings. There was a lot of work, and a committee established, between the organisations to progress this. At the end of the day, it is a decision for their board, as it is for mine. We were happy to co-locate to new premises. Greg and I had been looking at new premises. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, as Plant Health has said, it was not cost beneficial for them.

Senator STERLE: That was made very clear too. What would have been the financial benefit to Animal Health Australia if the co-location had been successful?

Ms Plowman : The immediate benefits would have been the sharing of back-office services; there would have been some savings there. I do not believe they would have been as big as, perhaps, some of the expectations of our members. Those kinds of savings take quite a long time. We were only talking about a co-location—not the merging of the two organisations.

Senator STERLE: That is a shame. Hopefully it can be revisited at another time when it can suit both parties. Can you provide details about the new lease agreements for the office at 95 Northbourne Avenue?

Ms Plowman : Yes. We had been in our previous premises for over 15 years and we had had three landlords. We had taken, as we required it, new space—we took on new offices. It was not conducive to efficient work or productivity or culture within the organisation. We had put off relocating for a couple of years. We in fact had no lease operating at that time. We were at risk in terms of our own leases. We were waiting to co-locate with Plant Health Australia. When they made that decision we determined that, given the soft commercial property market in Canberra presently, it was very beneficial for us to relocate and to provide additional services to our members through training space in our new offices.

Senator STERLE: Can you provide an update on the proposed establishment of the new company to replace the NLIS?

Ms Plowman : Yes, I can. We were formally informed by the MLA board—it has been known by a few things—that the transfer of that company into AHA will not be occurring and that, because of the SAFEMEAT Initiatives Review and the recommendations under that, at this stage it is more appropriate that it remains as a subsidiary company of MLA.

ACTING CHAIR ( Senator Sterle ): Why is that?

Ms Plowman : The SAFEMEAT Initiatives Review, which was undertaken over a 12- to 24-month period—its report came out late last year—makes a number of strong and very good recommendations with regard to the red meat industry in terms of its integrity systems and the role of NLIS Ltd in that.

ACTING CHAIR: So it remains with MLA. Where was it proposed to go?

Ms Plowman : We have been negotiating for some time various different models. One model was as a subsidiary of Animal Health Australia. In the end, the preferred model being put by our peak industry council members, who were mutual members, was one as still an independent company but where Animal Health Australia would have a significant vote or influence.

ACTING CHAIR: Who is on the peak industry council?

Ms Plowman : In terms of NLIS Ltd—

ACTING CHAIR: I think I know the answer. I will not call the usual suspects.

Ms Plowman : The representative industries who have interests in NLIS Ltd would be the sheep meat industry, cattle industry, the Australian Lot Feeders, goats—

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you. Has AHA been approached by the government to facilitate any of the white paper initiatives, particularly around biosecurity and traceability?

Ms Plowman : Not at this stage, although we take a keen interest in that white paper, and I have had discussions with the deputy secretary around where things are at. We are always interested in facilitating any projects that help our members.

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you very much. I do not have any further questions. Do you, Senator Siewert or Senator Edwards?

Senator EDWARDS: I will put mine on notice, given the lateness.

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Plowman. Good luck.