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Wednesday, 29 November 2000
Page: 20157

Senator TROETH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (5:20 PM) —The government has guidelines for the initiation of and changes to levies, and there are approximately 12 clauses to that guidelines section. I will not delay the Senate by going right through them, but basically any change to a levy must come as a request from the industry for the government to set in place regulations changing that levy. As I am currently the person responsible for levies within the government, the industry must demonstrate to me that that change in the levy rate has the support of a significant majority of the industry. I do not change the rate of that levy until I am perfectly satisfied that there is significant majority support behind that change, which has been requested by the industry. So that request must come from the industry, and I have to be satisfied as to the level of support behind it.

With regard to trading difficulties, I am not sure quite what Senator Harris means by that, because this company will not be involved in commercial activities; it will simply provide marketing and research and development services to the industry. There is not an element of trading in that, and obviously any undue level of financial difficulty would be picked up in advance, I would say, by the annual report, by the financial audit—by all of those provisions that I outlined earlier in the debate.

With regard to the allocation of funds for disease, yes, it is the function of the board to decide how the funds that the company has within its disposal will be allocated. Within the bounds of coping with any disease outbreak, there are other sections of government which would also be assisting an industry to cope with that, such as quarantine and other plant and animal health arms of government. Industry would not totally bear the brunt of that, but may well decide as a board to allocate money from its available funds to deal with that disease outbreak—but that is a decision for the board.