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Thursday, 13 February 2003
Page: 11875


Mr TRUSS (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (10:16 AM) —in reply—I thank the honourable members for Braddon and Blair for their contributions to the debate on the Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2002 and their support for the elements that are covered in the legislation. As honourable members have mentioned, these are routine amendments. They cover a range of issues and have given members an opportunity to talk about a number of important Australian agricultural industries. I thank those members for the comments that they have made in relation to those matters.

The honourable member for Braddon asked whether there had been consultation in relation to the amendments to the Wine and Brandy Corporation Act. I can assure him that there has been consultation with the Wine and Brandy Corporation itself through its legislation review committee, which also comprises representatives of the Winemakers Federation and the Regional Winemakers Forum; so all of the industry bodies were actively part of the work that was done in developing these amendments. I think it would be reasonable to say that they are noncontroversial and seen to be logical by all those associated with the industry.

The Register of Protected Names currently has no provisions allowing amendments to registered names if an error needs to be deleted or if entries become obsolete. I should point out that we are not aware of any errors at present but, sadly, these things happen in life and changes need to be made. At present, names like Champagne, Burgundy and Moselle are listed as Australian traditional expressions. These and a number of other generic terms are likely to be phased out of Australian use as part of the package to finalise the Australia-EU wine agreement, so we will need to remove these terms at that time.

At present there is no general head of power to allow any matter agreed to in a prescribed wine trading agreement such as the Australia-EU wine agreement to be specifically regulated. Matters relating to the EU are currently regulated through various parts and sections of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act and others. As Australia is presently negotiating with various countries in regard to treaties covering winemaking practices and labelling, this head of power will ensure that the AWBC is able to enforce and implement, if necessary, all matters concerning future wine trading agreements that Australia may enter into in addition to the Australia-EU wine agreement.

As an example, in May 2000 Kingston Estates wine was found to have breached the Australian food standards code. However, because the AWBC Act sets no prescribed time within which to allow prosecution, the one-year default period stated in the Crimes Act applied to this matter. This period is simply not long enough, given that wine is produced and then often held in storage for extended periods before it is exported or moved into the market; so there does need to be a longer period during which prosecutions can be launched. The seven-year period certainly imposes no further record keeping on winemakers. Winemakers already keep records for seven years, as provided under the act, so this legislation therefore just ensures that there is a capacity to launch prosecutions after a longer period.

The amendment to the Export Control Act will ensure that when orders made under the act are to apply, adopt or incorporate with or without modification to the food standards code published under the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 or the Codex Alimentarius issued by the Codex Alimentarius Commission of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, the orders can be read as referring to the current versions of the standards, avoiding the necessity of amending the orders whenever the standards change. Essentially, the amendment addresses the requirement to express a contrary intention for the purposes of section 49A of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

There are also some amendments to the National Residue Survey Administration Act, which will clarify the activities carried out under the act for which payments can be made from the National Residue Survey Reserve and to bring the act into line with other Commonwealth legislation on the protection of personal information. Previously the National Residue Survey has only monitored and reported on the level of contaminants in raw food products, animal feeds and fibre products that have been produced in Australia or produced from animals or plants produced in Australia. The amendments to the act will allow the NRS to test all inputs to the production of Australian raw food, feed and fibre products, including soil, water and imported animal feeds. The amendments to section 11 of this act, dealing with the release of the survey information, brings the act into line with Commonwealth legislation that contains personal details. This will ensure that any personal information released to a relevant authority or appropriate person for the purposes of monitoring or regulation of residues and contaminants is used for that specific purpose only.

The amendments to the Quarantine Act 1908 will make the act compliant with the Criminal Code Act 1995. The amendments emphasise the structure of offences, providing clarity and certainty in relation to the scope and effect of each offence and give consistency as to how criminal offences are to be interpreted by the courts.

The final amendment deals with the Dairy Industry Legislation Amendment Act 2002 and, as members have rightly identified, corrects a misdescribed amendment. I note the comments from the member for Braddon that these mistakes should not occur; frankly, I readily agree. Great effort is taken in the drafting of legislation by expert draftsmen, they are checked by legal counsel, they are checked by industry bodies and, obviously, by the department and others who are associated with the legislation. The government of the day must take responsibility for these errors, although I suppose a very alert opposition effectively doing its job might pick up the mistake when the legislation is being dealt with. This error, as small as it might be, has occurred and it needs to be corrected. Sadly, errors in legislation are not something that started when this government came to power; indeed, some of the errors that we are correcting now were made by the previous government. I suspect that, with all the best will in the world, these mistakes will still be made. I find each one of them an embarrassment and uncomfortable. They are things that should not happen. Almost every month there are bills coming into the parliament that correct drafting or other errors that occurred and should have been picked up at that time. This is, sadly, one of those. It is not monumental, it is very tiny, it should not have occurred, and we are seeking to correct it in this legislation.

I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate. My home town is Kingaroy, so I readily identified with the remarks of the member for Blair in relation to the importance of the peanut industry, which is facing a very tough year this year, with very little of the crop being planted and now no prospects for any more to be planted. That, amongst many other primary industries in Australia, is facing a particularly difficult year. The reputation that Australian peanuts have gained for their quality and reliability of supply is certainly going to be sorely tested this year with the likely state of the crop. Again, I thank honourable members for their contributions and I thank the opposition for granting speedy passage of the legislation. I commend the bill to the committee.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.