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Monday, 10 October 1994
Page: 1343


Senator BOLKUS (Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (5.46 p.m.) —I table a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the Primary Industries and Energy Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1994, and move:

  That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard

  Leave granted.

  The speeches read as follows—

PRIMARY INDUSTRIES AND ENERGY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2)

The purpose of this bill is to introduce amendments to the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994, Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980, Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation Act 1993 Farm Household Support Act 1992, Fisheries Administration Act 1991, Fisheries Management Act 1991, National Residue Survey Administration Act 1992, Primary Industries and Energy Research and Development Act 1989, Wheat Marketing Act 1989, Wool Legislation (Repeals and Consequential Provisions) Act 1993, Wool Tax Act (No. 3) 1964 and The Sugar Cane Levy Act 1987,. In addition there are several acts that require minor amendment relating to the change of name of the `Australian Agricultural Council' to the `Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand'.

The amendments to the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994 are technical amendments to ensure that the national registration authority for agricultural and veterinary chemicals can require a chemical company to provide certain information. The information would concern the reconsideration of chemical product registration and decisions concerning the suspension or cancellation of permits and chemical products.

Furthermore, this information when provided by a chemical company will be recognised as protected registration information. This will ensure that information provided to the national registration authority for agricultural and veterinary chemicals will not be commercially exploited by others without due regard to the payment of compensation to the originator of the information.

The amendments to the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980 concern levy payers to the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation.

Small winemakers often forward grapes to another, usually larger, winemaker who converts the material into wine under instructions for a fee (`toll processing'). The wine is then returned to the smaller winemaker for him or her to market. The smaller winemaker owns the wine throughout the process.

Under the current legislation, the larger winemaker is the `producer' and is liable for levy on the wine. This cost is usually added to the fee charged to the smaller winemaker. The smaller winemaker is therefore the effective, but not the official levy payer and accordingly is not entitled to attend, debate or vote in the industry annual general meeting of the corporation.

The amendments proposed will permit small winemakers who `toll process' to pay levy directly and to accept the rights and obligations of levy payers.

By redefining `producer' for the purposes of the wine grapes levy under the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991 and replacing the term `winemaker' with `producer' in part IVB of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980, which relates to annual general meetings of the industry, small winemakers will become the official levy payers in their own right and will be able to represent their own interests to the corporation.

Mr President, the amendments to the Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation Act 1993 are for two main purposes.

Firstly they will ensure that ecologically sustainable development principles are written into the charter of the Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation and that the membership of the Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation board will include, in future, expertise in environmental and ecological matters.

The Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation will therefore need to take ecologically sustainable development principles into account in its corporate planning, annual reporting and in determining priorities for allocation of research and development funds.

This provision is now a feature of all research and development statutory authorities in this portfolio and is in accordance with government policy on ecologically sustainable development.

Secondly they will provide for the Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation to allocate funds received from patents or trademarks associated with non-research and development activities to other than research and development. Currently all funds received from patents and trademarks must be paid into the Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation's wool research and development fund. The most significant of these non-research and development activities will be the revenue from the commercialisation of the woolmark.

Mr President, the amendments to the Farm Household Support Act 1992, implement a range of measures to improve the delivery of farm household support to farmers experiencing financial difficulties and to improve the administration of farm household support.

Farmers applying for farm household support will have a longer period to provide proof that they are unable to access further commercial finance. If farm household support recipients are dissatisfied with a decision in relation to the extension of their grant periods, they will have improved mechanisms to seek a review of such decisions. This will complement the current mechanism of an appeal direct to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

These amendments also allow for improved administration of farm household support by providing a power for the secretary to the Department of Primary Industries and energy to delegate his or her powers under the act. To assist with management of the loan portfolio, and ensure that all eligible recipients receive the benefit of the conversion of nine months of their farm household support payments to a grant, all farm household support recipients will be required to notify the secretary to the Department of Primary Industries and Energy of certain changes in their circumstances.

There is currently no provision in the Farm Household Support Act 1992 to prevent a person who has received a lump sum farm household support payment upon the sale of their farm, from receiving farm household support at a later stage and again selling a farm and receiving another such payment. These amendments ensure that a person may only receive one such payment. This will ensure that the funds available for this purpose are directed equitably to those who are committed to re-establishing their families outside of the farm sector.

The report on the adequacy of fisheries legislation, presented by the Senate Standing Committee on Industry, Science, Technology, Transport, Communications and Infrastructure in December 1993, recommended a number of amendments to fisheries legislation. A majority of the recommended changes will improve the operation of the legislation and it is opportune to include the technical amendments in this bill. During the inquiry, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority identified some further technical amendments to improve the effectiveness of the legislation. These have also been included in this bill.

Technical amendments are proposed to the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 to clarify the sources of funds available to Australian Fisheries Management Authority. Another amendment recognises the amalgamation of the ministerial council responsible for fisheries and forestry. The amalgamation results from the decision of the council of Australian governments to reduce the number of ministerial councils. The amendments that are proposed to the Fisheries Management Act 1991 will allow fishing permit holders greater flexibility in nominating the boat to be used with that permit. In addition, this bill clarifies the emergency powers available to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to manage fisheries and some powers and obligations of fisheries officers.

The Primary Industries and Energy Research and Development Act 1989 is amended to eliminate an anomaly in funding arrangements for the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. The amended provision will ensure that research contributions from state-licensed fishermen which are paid either directly to the corporation or to consolidated revenue can be matched by the Commonwealth as originally intended.

The amendments to the National Residue Survey Administration Act 1992, which were originally at the request of the cattle industry, will broaden the scope of the survey to encompass animal feeds and fibre products. This will enable industries to have a wider picture of likely contaminants in the food chain, and lead to earlier intervention if contaminants are detected.

This will be supplemented by the National Residue Survey having the facilities, at industries instigation, to fund educational and extension programs from the National Residue Survey's account. This will lead to a more efficient survey and give industry a stronger role in ensuring that its commodity is, indeed, `clean and green', and far more competitive on domestic and international markets.

Mr President, the main amendment to the Wheat Marketing Act 1989 extends the definition of `grain'. The amendment is necessary following the transfer to the Australian Wheat Board of the seed testing facilities of the Victorian Department of Agriculture. The transfer is beneficial to, and is supported by the grains and seeds industries.

The new definition of `grain' extends the coverage from the common cereal grains to horticultural, pasture and tree seeds, but only for the purposes of seed testing and seed certification. The Australian Wheat Board will not be able to use its marketing and trading powers for horticultural, pasture and tree seeds as it does not wish to undertake such activities.

The Wheat Marketing Act 1989 is also being amended to allow for regulations to be made which impose a penalty not exceeding the current equivalent of $1000. It is intended that such a penalty will be applied by proposed regulations which will make it mandatory (rather than voluntary as at present) for wheat levy payers and collectors to provide certain information concerning the levy payment. The information is used for the management of the Wheat Industry Fund and the allocation to individual levy payers of equity in the fund.

An administrative amendment to the act will remove the 65 years age limit restriction on persons appointed to the board of the Australian Wheat Board.

Mr President, the following amendments included in this bill are of a procedural nature directed to improving the administration of the issues dealt with in those acts. The amendment to the Wool Legislation (Repeals and Consequential Provisions) Act 1993 corrects an error in a date. The amendments to the Wool Tax Act (No. 3) 1964 are of a procedural nature and remove all references to `registered' from the title of wool dealers because such a reference is now obsolete. The amendment to the definition of sugar industry organisations contained in the Sugar Cane Levy Act 1987 is necessary following the consolidation of the sugar industry organisations currently listed within Industries Research (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 1985, Rural Industries Research Act 1985, Pig Industry Act 1986, Horticultural Policy Council Act 1987, Exotic Animal Disease Control Act 1989 and the Primary Industries Council Act 1991 result from the amalgamation of the former ministerial councils that dealt with agriculture, water resources, soil conservation and rural adjustment issues into the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand. Of these pre-existing ministerial councils, the Australian Agricultural Council was referred to in these acts. It is necessary, therefore, that these acts be amended.

I commend the bill to honourable senators and present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.

WINE GRAPES LEVY AMENDMENT BILL 1994

The purpose of this bill is to revise the arrangements for levies paid under the Wine Grapes Levy Act 1979 (as amended) (`the act'). The government is making these changes at the request of the winemaking industry.

The act imposes a levy on winemakers. The `marketing component' of the levy funds the operations of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation (the corporation). The corporation's statutory responsibilities include wine promotion, wine export control, the wine label integrity program and determining Australia's geographical indications for use in describing and presenting wine.

The `research component' of the levy supports the operations of the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation. This corporation has the statutory responsibility to co-ordinate and fund research and development undertaken on behalf of the grape and wine industry. The government provides matching funding for research and development expenditure on a dollar for dollar basis.

It is worthwhile noting that to date levy rates have been set and altered at the request of industry. I do not anticipate that this will change.

At present, the legislation specifies a complex range of levy rates for the marketing component. This makes for an unwieldy process when changing the levy rates for the marketing component. The bill instead provides that the levy rates will be set out in regulations, as is the usual case for horticultural levies. This will facilitate execution of industry requests to change the levy and bring it into line with normal practice. At the same time a maximum amount (0.5% of the gross value of production) is set for the marketing component.

The act already provides that the levy rates for the research component be specified by regulation. The research levy rate is at present $1.90 per tonne and the legislation sets a limit of $2 per tonne for this levy. The maximum was set in the original act of 1979 and needs to be raised to $3 per tonne to enable the industry to increase its funding of industry research and development, if it so desires.

The bill also ends the exemption that smaller winemakers (those processing less than 10 tonnes of product) had from paying levy. As non-payers, those winemakers have no representation in the decisions and operations of the corporation and its regulatory functions.

It is intended that these winemakers will pay the small annual fee that constitutes the minimum levy rate, in return for which they will have the right to represent their interests at annual general meetings of the corporation and to receive the services and information that the corporation provides to its levy payers.

Honourable senators will be aware that the corporation's role is of considerable importance in the Australian wine industry's drive to reach an annual export level of $1 billion by the year 2000.

Many small producers will not be exporters, but the changes in the domestic market directly affect them. Such changes include the effects of expanded trade on grape supplies and Australia's commitment to end the use of European geographical indications in labelling our wine.

It is important that the small winemakers not be left out of consideration in the strategic development of the Australian wine industry. It is important that their voice be heard. Their present ineligibility to be members of the AWBC prevents them from having the opportunity. The bill is intended to redress this situation.

I commend this bill to honourable senators and present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.

PRIMARY INDUSTRIES LEVIES AND CHARGES (WINE GRAPES) COLLECTION AMENDMENT BILL 1994

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991 (the `Collection Act') to allow small wine producers to pay levy in their own right and represent themselves at annual general meetings of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation.

Small winemakers often forward grapes to another, usually larger, winemaker who converts the material into wine under instructions for a fee (`toll processing'). The wine is then returned to the smaller winemaker for him or her to market. The smaller winemaker owns the wine throughout the process.

Under the current legislation, the larger winemaker is the `producer' and is liable for levy on the wine. This cost is usually added to the fee charged to the smaller winemaker. The smaller winemaker is therefore the effective, but not the official levy payer and accordingly is not entitled to attend, debate or vote in the industry annual general meeting of the corporation.

The amendments proposed will permit small winemakers who `toll process' to pay levy directly and to accept the rights and obligations of levy payers.

Although the legislation will allow small winemakers who have their wines toll processed to be recognised as the official levy payers, the government has put forward the related Wine Grapes Levy Amendment Bill 1994 to ensure that product from small winemakers is leviable product.

By redefining `producer' for the purposes of the wine grapes levy under the Collection Act, small winemakers will become the official levy payers in their own right and will be able to represent their own interests to the corporation.

I commend the bill to honourable senators and present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.

NATIONAL RESIDUE SURVEY ADMINISTRATION (MEAT CHICKEN) AMENDMENT BILL 1994

This bill, provides for an increase in the maximum rate of levy under the national residue survey for meat chickens.

The increase has been requested by the peak industry body, the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, in order to maintain flexibility for changes to the survey programs required for the chicken meat industry in the coming years.

I commend the bill to honourable senators.

  Debate (on motion by Senator Panizza) adjourned.