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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8651

Mr RANDALL (Canning) (11:09): I am pleased to speak on the Horse Disease Response Levy Bill 2011, which is being debated cognately with the Horse Disease Response Levy Collection Bill 2011 and the Horse Disease Response Levy (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011. I do so because I have an abiding interest in all things equine. Just to give you a background as to why, Madam Deputy Speaker, right from a young person I spent a lot of time on the back of a horse. In fact, in my younger, sillier days I used to ride in rodeos in the circuit around Western Australia. I recall being on the front page of the West Australian riding the feature horse at the Western Australian Royal Show. It was not a very good picture because I was coming off at the time, but I did enjoy my involvement in those days. I further went on to semiprofessionally train thoroughbred racehorses for seven years, having my own stables at Ascot around that racecourse in Perth. I had some success in the city and the country training thoroughbreds.

When you extrapolate that into my electorate now, the Canning electorate is the home of much of Western Australia's horse industry. We have breeding facilities and probably the most pre-eminent is the Heytesbury horse stud, which is owned by the Holmes a Court family. We have many standardbred studs. We have the Pinjarra Trotting Club, which is probably the best trotting track in Western Australia. We have the Pinjarra Race Club, which has one of the best all-weather tracks and layout itself. Many of the hobby trainers, both at a standardbred level and at a thoroughbred level, operate within the electorate of Canning. For example, Byford has a training track, and if you were to fly over the area you would see that most of the five-acre lots spread throughout the semirural areas of my electorate have a trotting track in there for exercising by the hobby trainer with one or two trotters. The beaches are not too far away for those who want to exercise their horses on the beaches. Not only that but we have every form of equine activity there. We have the pony clubs, the polocrosse, the polo, the dressage—every form of equine activity is located within the Canning electorate.

So this is very important to my electorate and that is why I wish to speak about this issue. A new initiative is the Coolup equestrian centre, which the Shire of Murray in my electorate is endeavouring to get off the ground, based on the Australian equine livestock event centre in Tamworth, which cost $30 million. You have got to start somewhere, and a covered and indoor dressage area at Coolup is being promoted and is something I would like to get behind, given the opportunity through Regional Development Australia or some form of federal funding to help them continue. I helped open a riding for the disabled arena which had been sponsored by the local people in the shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale recently. On that basis this is a very important industry to me. As a horse tragic, I have just had another ordinary racehorse. I paid a lot of money for it. It won a race and placed several times in the city. But it was a $100,000 horse which I am going to have to give away because it is not of much value anymore, having ran last at its last run. That is the tragedy of being involved in horses. As they say, poverty is owning a racehorse.

Many people whose livelihoods depend on this industry are involved in this industry, right from those who sell feed, veterinary supplies or gear to those who train semiprofessionally as hobby trainers or those who train professionally. One of the leading trainers in Perth, Adam Durrant, operates in my area. Ross Oliveri, one of the best trainers in Perth at the moment, has his stables in my electorate, in the standardbred area. Probably Australia's pre-eminent reinsman, Chris Lewis, an Inter-Dominion winner, has his stud within the electorate of Canning.

All those people are very interested in the biosecurity issues surrounding thoroughbreds. When this EI outbreak first happened in 2007, or it could have been slightly earlier—I stand to be corrected on that—it was a surprise to Australia. We thought that as an island nation we were immune from the equine influenza virus. This is the case with Australia's location in respect of many of the exotic viruses that have been mentioned by the member for Maranoa, whether they be in the agricultural area, like fire blight, or with animals. Let us recall that we have had a long-term industry in which shuttle stallions come to Australia, generally from Europe, and we had not had a problem. We have lifted the quality of thoroughbreds in Australia by selective breeding by Northern Hemisphere shuttle stallions, largely from Britain—thanks to the magnificent breeding industry in Britain. If you look through the Australian on a Monday morning and check out the winners on the British racecourses you will find that many of the stallions that have sired the winners in Britain have sired the winners at Rose Hill or Flemington on the same day.

The member for Maranoa is quite correct: this outbreak happened as a result of a careless error in a quarantine facility. Let us recall the instance. A young track rider working in the facility was not properly washed down or disinfected before he left for the weekend. He then went to a pony club type of event, I believe it was, or a dressage event in northern New South Wales, and that is where the spread happened. As the member has also said, a standstill instruction was then given to all horses around Australia. They could not be moved, even in Western Australia, which EI did not reach. People from my electorate went to campdraft meetings around Carnarvon and were not allowed to shift for days and weeks. They were camped up there with their horses, which they were not allowed to move, and their vehicles were not allowed to move. The disruption to Western Australia was only minor, because we did not have the outbreak there. We did have some thoroughbred and standardbred meetings cancelled, but it was not like in the eastern states, where the movement restricted the breeding opportunities in that breeding season. Mares could not be taken to studs, and stallions could not be shifted around studs, because of the standstill instruction.

So it had a devastating effect, as a result of something as minor as a guy not washing down properly and then going to ride horses in a recreational sense on the weekend. I must say, it was a bit of a cheap shot for the member for Wakefield to say how terrible it was that it happened under our watch. Yes, we admit that, but we quite rightly believed that Australia was somewhat immune from equine influenza. If you recall, just a year before, two Japanese horses quinellaed the Melbourne Cup. That is where the virus is believed to have come from, because Japan has quite a history of equine influenza virus. I recall that the winner was Delta Blues, ridden by a Japanese jockey. I know that because I backed it, and I got the quinella, and because Damien Oliver rode the horse that came second—Alcopop, I believe its name was. It was an outstanding result, but the Japanese horses have not been back since, largely because they are an area of serious equine influenza infection.

I know others have talked to the details of this bill. The measures that have taken place had to happen in terms of the costs associated with not only monitoring but also eliminating this virus and other horse viruses. Of course, the first time this came through there was a knee-jerk reaction: we were going to hit everyone with a levy. Was the levy going to be collected in a certain way, how was it going to be managed, who would be responsible for it, what was going to happen to the interest, how would it be disbursed et cetera? The industry was not very happy about it. The casual recreational rider who has a horse in their backyard and just wants to ride in the bush on the weekend, or wants to go to a local pony club event, was being hit up largely for the standardbred and thoroughbred industries, and they were not happy about it. This measure that the industry now has been consulted on is far fairer and far more reasonable. If there is any outbreak like the equine influenza virus, the government will stump up the money and then, over a 10-year period, collect it back from the industry through a 50c levy on manufactured feeds, wormers and other veterinary supplies. That has been agreed to by the industry and as has been said not everyone is happy, but it is the fairest way. No money is being collected now. The levy is zero now because there is no biosecurity emergency in this area. Should there be one, the government would involve itself in committing to certain levels of payment. I understand, for example, that should there be another EI virus, like this, the government would pay 75 per cent of the levy and the industry would pay 25 per cent.

I would imagine all those details are in the explanatory memorandum of this bill. It has been well consulted and I want to congratulate all those involved. Senator Back, a pre-eminent vet from Western Australia and now a senator, is somebody who had a lot to do with this. I want to congratulate him and his committee members who inquired into this because it really is bringing a resolution to future outbreaks.

There are other issues which surround this. There are brumbies, for example—certainly not the Brumbies that play rugby for Canberra, because I understand they are not going too well. In the alpine regions of our eastern seaboard we have brumbies romantically wandering around the high country. Should they contract the disease, who is responsible for that? I suppose this levy clicks in on that. I was at Kakadu earlier this year. There were a heap of brumbies wandering around the wetlands there. It is a potential time bomb sitting out there for the equine industry because of these feral horses—or any feral animals. I read in the paper this morning about the goat industry—and dare I say, live export industry—involving goats from the sheep stations of Western Australia. The Middle East countries want to put a ban on that at the moment because they are concerned about rabies.

There are a whole lot of exotic and traditional diseases that surround our livestock but in this case, in the equine industry, we need to be ever vigilant. As an island nation we have been well regarded because of our lack of disease and the lack of impact it has had on our industry. It has been managed well until now. I think the mechanism that is in place now and obviously has bipartisan support is fair and reasonable and deals quite appropriately with any future crises that we may have in this industry.