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Thursday, 21 February 2008
Page: 1090

Mr BURKE (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (9:49 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Horse Disease Response Levy (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2008 amends the Australian Animal Health Council (Live-stock Industries) Funding Act 1996 and provides for the appropriation and application of the horse disease response levy under the proposed Horse Disease Response Levy Act 2008.

The proposed amendments provide a mechanism to help the horse industry fund its liabilities under the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA). The EADRA, which began in 2002, is an important part of Australia’s animal disease emergency preparedness and response infrastructure. It provides funding certainty in the event of emergency animal disease threats to Australia and certainty in providing rapid and effective responses. The Australian government and all state and territory governments are signatories to the EADRA, as are a number of livestock industries—but not the horse industry.

Under the terms of the EADRA, the government may be required to underwrite an industry’s share of the costs in a response to an animal disease emergency. The agreement provides for this on the proviso that the industry will agree to an appropriate repayment scheme, including through statutory levy arrangements.

While the horse industry is currently not a party to the EADRA, the amendments will help it to become a party by establishing secure funding arrangements to meet its obligations.

The amendment bill provides for amounts equal to the horse disease levy imposed under the provisions of the proposed Horse Disease Response Levy Act 2008 to be paid to the Australian Animal Health Council from the Consolidated Revenue Fund through the normal appropriation process.

The amendment bill authorises the Australian Animal Health Council to hold and manage these funds on behalf of the horse industry. The Australian Animal Health Council is to use the funds to discharge any obligations that the industry may incur under the EADRA. However, if the horse industry has not become a party to the EADRA at the time that the horse disease levy is imposed, the Australian Animal Health Council must use the funds to repay the Commonwealth for any liabilities incurred responding to emergency animal disease outbreaks such as equine influenza.

If at any time the horse industry has no obligations under the EADRA, it may ask the Australian Animal Health Council to apply the funds in the event of other horse disease related emergencies. However, it is not proposed that funds directed for research and development be matched by the government.

These amendments help give effect to the Australian Horse Industry Council’s submission to government supporting the introduction of a statutory levy for the initial registration of horses. It helps establish arrangements for the long-term funding of emergency animal disease outbreaks such as equine influenza and so assists in providing certainty in responding to such outbreaks.

The amendments set out in this new legislation are similar to those applied to other industry parties to the EADRA.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Markus) adjourned.