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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6230

Mr JOHN COBB (7:51 PM) —I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and acknowledge the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. I want to speak about the cuts to AQIS, in particular, and about the fact that the government proposes to take out the 60 per cent agreement negotiated with the industry back in 2001 and the effect that will have. It will have a very real effect on some industries that has to be acknowledged. For some industries, such as traders in the meat industry in particular, the effect will be much greater than it will be for others. I can mention one trader in Sydney with a turnover of some $50 million whose AQIS charges, counting the loss of the 40 per cent plus the increase in charges, look as if they will go from something like $60,000-odd to $600,000. I think you would agree that that is an enormous increase. This increase will affect everybody who has to export and use AQIS services, whether it be in horticulture, fisheries or any other commodity.

Can the minister explain, in respect of the reported $40 million deal he has put to exporters over the last week or so, whether the return for their support for this new deal—for the abolition of the 40 per cent rebate—is going to be new money? If so, where is that money coming from? If not, will he need to pass a new appropriation bill to provide that money? Has the minister threatened commodity groups that, unless he gets their agreement by the end of this week, he will take the deal off the table? Why is the minister unwilling, given that he has agreed to look at producing efficiencies within AQIS, to make the AQIS charges cheaper for exporters? Why is he unwilling to commence the efficiencies first and reduce the rebate as the efficiencies take place?