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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10688


Ms SAFFIN (Page) (19:41): I was going to start off somewhere else but, having listened to the honourable member for Wannon, I have to give a few targeted rebuttals to some of the absolute nonsense I have heard here tonight on this motion. The honourable member said to give credit where credit is due, so I will start by noting, with respect to the move to full cost recovery, two things which relate to what the honourable member for Wannon said. Firstly, he said that it does not happen anywhere else. Yes, it does—that is not what the meat processors and others say and they are people that I talk to regularly. Secondly, I note that it was under the Howard government that this system started. So I am happy to give credit where credit is due—not like you, coming in here when you end up in opposition and pretending that you had nothing to do with it and did not know about it. You come in here and all of a sudden just do a complete turnaround—180 degrees.

Mr Tehan: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker: I do not think the member is being relevant to the submission.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): There is no point of order.

Ms SAFFIN: I am being very relevant—I am talking about the absolute political and popular opportunism of the National Party in bringing this motion before the House. You talk about relevance, but this motion has no relevance to what is going on.

I will turn to what is going on. The conversation on this issue, as members would know, is a conversation that takes time because we are working across a number of highly significant industries. The meat industry is the one that I know most about but I have information about all of them. That conversation continues. It is, in fact, more than a conversation; it is a consultation, conversation and deep engagement with the industries and with the government.

Before I go into that, I will go back to 'credit where credit is due' and I want to pay credit to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig, for the work he has done and for the agreement he reached recently with AMIC. I have seen the letters and I have been involved in it. the chairman of the Australian processor council and of the Australian Meat Industry Council, Mr Gary Burridge, is also the CEO of the Northern Co-operative Meat Company, which is in my electorate. So it is an issue that I am engaged in at a local level but with which I also have some familiarity at the national level. The agreement is something that AMIC is really pleased about—they put out media releases on it. It is what they have been working towards and it is what I have been supporting them working towards. It is no good writing a three-part motion, coming in here, getting up and just mouthing off—mouthing words and not doing any of the hard yards and the work to support the industry. A key area where they need support is particularly around access.

Yes, we can talk about money and, yes, we can talk about certification, but we have to maintain that market access and we have to have regulatory schemes in place that do not impede or damage that market access. That is where the government, through the minister, is doing a lot of work with the industry. That is what it is about: cooperation. It is not about the nonsense that we have heard here tonight.

I have a couple of points I would like to make. Firstly, in the honourable member for Calare's motion he talks about immediately commissioning an independent study on the legitimate cost to the government of Australian quarantine and of AQIS. It goes on about the six industries. If you read it, it is designed to engender some urgency, as though there is some panic around it. There is not. There is a lot of work that has been happening and it is just part and parcel of that modus operandi.

My understanding is that there is a review of the fee structures and the overhead allocations. All the honourable member has to do is go onto the DAFF website, for a start, and it is there to read. I am really pleased with the agreement that was reached with AMEC and the terms of reference also for the AMEC-government joint ministerial task force with the export meat program and export certification reform.

The work that has been happening and the work that still has to happen is really clear with those joint terms of reference. The government has invested a lot of money in this. The government has invested $127.5 million over three years in export certification reforms. That is money well spent and money that I want to see spent in that area. I understand that $85 million of that was in export certification. The government also approved the cost recovery impact statement. The budget for the meat program, as I have outlined, was subject to extensive consultation and we know what the budget allocations are from 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12.

The industry and the government are always working to find efficiencies, and that helps productivity as well as savings. That is part and parcel of what industries do and what governments do all the time. It has been a great collective effort. We talk about credit where credit is due, and I know that in my local media I claimed some credit: I crowed too, because I represented the local industry. I worked collaboratively with the minister and with the local meat industry to ensure that there was that support in moving to that full cost recovery with the export certification scheme. The industry has been really sensible in moving to this.

With the motion that we have before us it would be more useful if the time were spent even talking about how we can collaborate to some of the members who are seized and concerned with these issues. There is nothing against that in this place. It does not matter what party members come from, they can do that. We do that from time to time, and when we do that we do it well. And yet, time after time I am in this chamber and find myself speaking on motions like that which the honourable member for Calare has put up that are both out of time, out of date and irrelevant to what is actually happening at government level and in the industry.

My seat is a rural seat. I have agricultural industries, and I care about them and work with them. What galls me is seeing the National Party members just playing around all the time with this. When they are in government they are with the Liberal Party as part of a coalition and they support free trade and those things. Yet they come in here and say something else and go out into the electorate as though they do not. I have seen it with bananas and I have seen it with apples. They just go out and say what they want to and what they think somebody in the electorate wants to hear. That is not conscionable, it is not fair and it is not real to do that to farmers and to the industry. We have an obligation to be absolutely upfront with them about what is happening.

We are a trading nation. In the meat industry alone a lot of the chilled and packaged meat is exported. I want to give support where I can, and that is why I work to make sure that we, like the transition with the cost recovery and the certificate scheme, give support where the industry can work to find its efficiencies, where it can work to ensure that it stays competitive and where it can ensure that it continues to have market access but also develop further market access. That is what it is about: staying competitive and staying relevant. It is not about these nonsense motions that we have before the House.