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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8647

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (10:50): It is a great pleasure to be speaking, finally, on the Horse Disease Response Levy Bill 2011 and related bills. I spoke on the previous bill in the previous parliament, in 2008. For all that time, the Australian horse industry has been left in a state of insecurity because we did not have arrangements in place to allow the industry and the government to adjust to any outbreak of disease that might occur. This comes after a decade of insecurity and indifference by the previous government to the risk of equine influenza. In my previous speech, I talked about that quite a bit: how the member for Wide Bay had basically adopted a 'she'll be right' attitude to the potential threat of equine influenza, despite being warned by people in the industry.

So this is unfinished business. It is a great pity that it did not come to the House before this. It is a great pity that the opposition rejected the bill in its first incarnation. I thought it was a profoundly fair bill, a bill that protected Australia and the horse industry and provided that industry with the same level of security that occurs in other livestock industries. We have potential levies in place for chicken meat, honeybees, cattle, dairy, chickens, sheep, lambs, goat and pigs. This was not a new concept in the previous bill. It was a perfectly reasonable arrangement.

I am pleased that the opposition has finally seen sense and we have finally been able to get levy arrangements on which there is a greater level of agreement. But I think we need to understand that we are never going to have universal approval for levy arrangements. There is always going to be someone out there who regards it as an impost on their business or on their individual liberty. But levies, taxes and prices on carbon are all arrangements that are necessary for civilisation, for stable government and for security. They are the great compromise we make between our individual liberty and our collective security. I do not mean to fire up the opposition, but after a decade of their indifference and ignoring all these problems it is nice for them to finally come to a conclusion and say yes. It must be a heart-warming thing for the opposition—such a novel experience! One hopes that saying yes might be catching. You might get some warm fuzzies! We can only hope that this might be part of a new era of civility in our public life and that the warring parties might give it a rest. We can only hope.

Dr Mike Kelly: You have got to stop smoking that stuff!

Mr CHAMPION: I live in hope. I am a great believer in cooperation. But it is good that we have some agreement on this bill and some agreement about how the levies will be imposed. They are going to be imposed on manufactured horse feed and worming treatments for horses. It will be a levy on consumers; we cannot not get away from that. People will not like paying it in the event of a disease outbreak. Initially, of course, the levies are all set at zero, so there will not be an impost unless there is an outbreak of disease. It is worth noting that the previous outbreak of disease cost the government—and therefore cost the community—some $249 million because of the financial assistance that had to be made to individuals, organisations and businesses. And that is not counting the significant losses that were experienced by people outside the reasonably strict framework that had to occur because of the high costs and the failure to have a levy. One constituent of mine, who made ribbons for horseshows—the prizes for the winners at pony clubs and many horseshows in my electorate—received no compensation and there was a great impact on her business. I remember her plight very well.

It is worth acknowledging the great contribution horses do make to our rural life and the culture of rural life—and I note that we have the member for Eden Monaro in the chamber. Although I do not have any spectacular jumps in my electorate—we have got plains for the most part—there are many pony clubs. My sister participated in one. There is a very famous rodeo in Marrabel in my electorate. Marrabel is a great little town. I got a six per cent swing there last election, and got 17 votes rather than 11. So I thank the one family who might have changed sides for their support. It is a great town and I have very fond memories of going to Marrabel in my youth and going to the rodeo there. It is interwoven with rural life and interwoven to the culture of it. When equine influenza hit, everything stopped for a while. All the horse components of country shows were cancelled, and you noticed that. It made a big difference in my hometown of Kapunda.

It is worth acknowledging that these great insecurities are out there. We know that we cannot put up the shutters and have a 'fortress Australia'. We live in an interconnected world, and that means that we must resist the siren song of protectionism and this idea of a 'fortress Australia'. That will not provide security; it will just cost us jobs, trade and opportunity. We have to acknowledge that we need to seek security in different ways—firstly, through prevention and, secondly, when we do have issues we need to respond to them quickly.

I commend this bill to the House. It is certainly nice to see the opposition finally saying yes. I look forward to these arrangements coming into place and making my constituents more secure in the event of any disease outbreak.