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Monday, 17 September 2007
Page: 101

Mr McGAURAN (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (6:40 PM) —in reply—I thank the member for Leichhardt for that very personal and moving valedictory speech to this parliament. As both the member for Leichhardt and as a parliamentary secretary in various responsibilities, he has accumulated a distinguished record of service. On behalf of his colleagues on this side of the House and the wider parliament and community, I thank and congratulate him and wish him all the very best with his extended family.

Turning to the Quarantine Amendment (Commission of Inquiry) Bill 2007 before the House, I reiterate the government’s intention and resolve to get to the bottom of how the outbreak of equine influenza occurred in Australia. Even with the most cursory examination of the bill, no-one could conclude otherwise. The bill allows for a full and independent inquiry, which needs to be formally commenced as quickly as possible. I am therefore anxious that the bill proceed through the House to the other place and come into force without any further delay so that the Hon. Ian Callinan can commence his responsibilities and duties as commissioner. Mr Callinan is a jurist of the highest order with a good working knowledge of the horse industry. He is eminently qualified for this role and he is ideally placed to conduct a thorough and searching inquiry into the outbreak. Through the bill, Mr Callinan will be provided with all the necessary powers and protections of a royal commission. He will also have access to all of the relevant quarantine specific powers that are already contained in the Quarantine Act 1908. The commissioner will have the power to hold public meetings, to compel witnesses and the production of documents, to direct Quarantine officers to assist his investigation and to direct his own independent investigators.

The effects of the outbreak of equine influenza have been severely felt across horse related industries. In New South Wales alone thousands of people have been affected by the outbreak in the most harsh of economic terms. Queensland has also not been spared great financial and, at times, emotional hardship. The government is providing much needed assistance to the tune of $110 million to those people and businesses that have been directly affected, not just in the thoroughbred industry—although that is the largest commercial entity of the horse industry—but also, just as importantly, the harness and equestrian industries.

It is also essential that the bill be passed as quickly as possible so that this comprehensive, independent inquiry, which has been so sought after by those who have been directly and indirectly affected, can commence its operations. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.