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Thursday, 25 May 2006
Page: 7

Mr McGAURAN (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (9:33 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Plant Health Australia (Plant Industries) Funding Amendment Bill 2006 provides a mechanism to enable plant industries to fund their liabilities under the government and plant industry cost-sharing deed in respect of emergency plant pest responses (the deed).

The deed commenced on 26 October 2005 with the Australian government, state and territory governments and plant industries as parties. There are now 14 plant industry signatories to the deed. It provides certainty in funding for emergency plant pest threats to Australia and certainty in providing rapid and effective responses.

Under the terms of the deed, the government may be required to underwrite a plant industry’s share of the costs of an emergency plant pest response. The government has agreed to do this on the proviso plant industries agree to an appropriate repayment scheme.

The amendments will give plant industries the flexibility either to accumulate funds in advance of an emergency plant pest response or to activate levy and charge arrangements following a response.

The plant industries will fund their obligations under the deed through the imposition of new emergency plant pest response levies and charges.

Amendments to the Plant Health Australia (Plant Industries) Funding Act 2002 will provide the machinery for the appropriation and application of the new emergency plant pest response levies and charges.

Firstly, the amendment bill provides for amounts equal to new emergency plant pest response levies and charges to be paid to Plant Health Australia from the consolidated revenue fund through the normal appropriation process.

Secondly, the amendment bill authorises Plant Health Australia to hold and manage these funds on behalf of a plant industry. Plant Health Australia will utilise the funds to discharge any obligations that the industry may incur under the emergency plant pest response deed in relation to the plant product or products on which the emergency plant pest response levy or charge is raised.

If at any time a plant industry has no obligations under the deed, it may request Plant Health Australia to apply the funds for other emergency plant pest related purposes. However, it is not proposed that funds directed to an industry’s research and development corporation be matchable by the government.

If there is no present occasion to apply the funds, they may be held for the industry by Plant Health Australia and supplemented by any interest or other income.

This legislation has the full support of industry groups and producers. It establishes arrangements for the long-term funding of emergency plant pest outbreaks and so assists in providing certainty in responding to such outbreaks.

The bill is further demonstration of the partnership approach to plant health matters between the government and industry. It will further help maintain the competitiveness of Australia’s agricultural industries through an outstanding animal and plant health status.

Debate (on motion by Mr Gavan O’Connor) adjourned.