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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4049

Senator MURPHY(6.51 p.m.) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

This bilateral treaty relates to an agreement between Australia and New Zealand concerning the establishment of the Governing Board, Technical Advisory Council and Accreditation Review Board of the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand. Whilst it is all very well and good to have this process, one of the fundamental problems that I see is that, even before we get to a joint accreditation system, we ought to develop a national accreditation system. The accreditation system, in terms of standards that apply in this country, can vary significantly. We have—I cannot recall the name of the agreement, but it goes to free trade between states.

Senator Woodley —It's a very important issue.

Senator MURPHY —It is very important, Senator Woodley, because each state has different standards. Constitutionally, we have not been able to work out how to get uniform standards to apply, say, to safety gear. We simply do not have that. We have a manufacturer of safety boots in Tasmania, Blundstone boots. They make great boots.

Senator Sandy Macdonald —Great boots.

Senator MURPHY —You are right, Senator Macdonald. Senator Ferguson, do you have a pair on? I know Senator O'Chee likes to wear them. It is very important because where companies in this country are expected to manufacture goods to a certain standard and where that standard does not apply either within this country, within other states or, as is the case in this agreement, within New Zealand, you can create a disadvantage to your own manufacturing sector if you allow for a product to be imported into this country that does not meet the same level of standards that your own manufacturing industry is required to meet. I raised that very point with the department.

Senator Woodley —Like chicken meat.

Senator MURPHY —Absolutely, like cooked chicken meat, and I can think of a few other things like unprocessed salmon and the like. Those things are very important. As I said to the department, how do we avoid this situation with this body, this joint accreditation system between Australia and New Zealand, which has about 16 members on its panel? When it sits down to work out, discuss and put in place agreed processes with regard to accreditation, how does it do that where we have this problem and how does it take account of the different standards and applications that we have in Australia?

If we do not get that right, there will always be a disadvantage. In part, that is probably what caused Blundstone boots to move some of its operation to New Zealand. We are probably missing opportunities in so far as a lot of other manufacturing industry developments are concerned if we do not get this standards system right, and likewise with labelling, et cetera. In so far as the agreement is concerned, it is good to have it, but it does not solve the problems that exist within this country. Again, if the government wants to take a step in the right direction, it ought to seek, through the process of the premiers meetings, to get some of these things uniform. (Time expired)

Question resolved in the affirmative.