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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 9496

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (10:06): I am pleased to rise to voice my support for the National Residue Survey (Excise) Levy Amendment (Deer) Bill 2011 and I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I had to work very hard to get to the top of the speaking list for this topic, but thankfully I was able to push my way through the other members of the Labor Party and I am proud to be able to speak on it. I thank the member for Calare for his contribution.

Mr Deputy Speaker, it is my understanding that you used to have a deer farm, so you would be very, very interested in this topic. I see the member for Wentworth in the chamber and I understand that he has a very ‘dear’ farm, so he might be interested as well.

This bill will help ensure the viability and sustainability of the Australian deer industry. Deer were introduced into Australia more than 100 years ago. Today the deer industry is well established for breeding deer species for the production of velvet antler and, more importantly and more significantly I guess in terms of value, venison. The species that are farmed in Australia include about 50 per cent fallow, 40 per cent red deer and 10 per cent elk. Some of the tropical species are rusa and chital deer in Queensland and Western Australia. They are the deer more suited to tropical climates. And of course there is also the brief, migratory, annual visit of Santa Claus’s reindeer—at least that is what I am informed by my young children.

Back in 2002 there were 200,000 deer on Australian farms, particularly in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania. But as I said, there are also some more tropical deer harvested in Queensland and Western Australia. The onset of drought halved the deer population and the farm gate value of venison dropped from $2.47 million to $1.24 million. Obviously this is a big hit to the producers and this bill is a response to some of their concerns.

More than 85 per cent of the venison produced in Australia is exported to Europe and South-East Asia. The deer industry pays a number of compulsory levies to support the industry. These levies include a deer export charge of $5 per animal, a deer velvet levy of two per cent of sale value and a deer velvet export levy of two per cent of sale value. Deer producers are also required to pay a compulsory slaughter levy of 8c per kilogram. Unfortunately the decline in deer production over the last 10 years has significantly reduced the amount of money raised through deer levies. The levy is defined in the National Residue Survey (Excise) Levy Act 1998. ‘Residue’ refers to the monitoring of the residue level of chemicals in the venison.

This bill will not increase the levy but it does change the way the levy is allocated. Presently 4c per kilogram goes to fund activities undertaken by the National Residue Survey and 4c per kilogram goes to research and development and is paid to the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. This bill will increase the levy cap from 4c to 10.5c per kilogram. This will enable the portion of the levy that goes to the national residue survey to be increased to 6c per kilogram and the R&D component will be reduced to 2c per kilogram. As the member for Calare touched on, this is a normal rejigging to accommodate the concerns of the industry.

Residue monitoring is obviously important to ensure that consumer confidence in the meat product safety and quality remains and is also required for Australia’s meat to be sold to the European Union. Because Europe is such a significant market for Australian deer meat it is important that we have a viable residue monitoring program, and this bill will help to achieve that. Obviously our venison sales story is part of our clean and green foodstuffs message that I am sure the member for Eden-Monaro is very familiar with. The Australian products have a good brand overseas but we can only maintain that brand through vigilance.

Importantly, the reduction in the research and development rate of the deer slaughter levy is not expected to have an impact on deer related projects undertaken by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. I think it is also important that this bill does not impose an additional tax burden on the deer producers, who have suffered significant losses over the last decade. However, because this bill will increase the levy cap to 10.5c it will enable the industry to seek future levy increases without the need to further amend the act.

I speak here as a Queenslander, Mr Deputy Speaker, like you. Obviously, with your history as a deer farmer you would understand this industry more, and I thought with your long history in the House you might be able to shed some light on why the Queensland coat of arms—the oldest coat of arms in Australia—has a deer on it. The brolga is on one side; obviously that is a very Australian bird, probably for me one of the most graceful birds in the world. That sits there easily but on the other side of the coat of arms—the coat of arms that was granted in 1893 by Queen Victoria—is the red deer. I did a bit of research. Also on the coat of arms are a sheaf of wheat, the head of a bull, the head of a ram, a bit of sugar cane—reflecting the rural activities of Queensland—and even some gold.

Dr Mike Kelly: No Wally Lewis?

Mr PERRETT: No. He was not around in 1893, which is almost how long you have to go back for New South Wales to have won the State of Origin.

An honourable member: Not quite.

Mr PERRETT: Obviously they were the rural industries of the time—but no coal, interestingly enough. Underneath the coat of arms it has the state motto, Audax et Fidelis, which means bold but faithful. That could be my motto, I suppose, or yours, Mr Deputy Speaker, perhaps. The coat of arms was changed in 1977, when the red deer and the brolga were put on the side—the supporters of the coat of arms—and apparently the thinking of that well-known Queenslander, or New Zealander, Joh Bjelke-Petersen was that the red deer was the link back to the royal herds near London, and the brolga is obviously Queensland’s distinctive bird. While we do not have as many deer producers as the other states, we do have a deer on our coat of arms, so I welcome the measures in this bill that will ensure a viable, quality deer industry continues and I commend the bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member for Moreton for his interesting if quirky contribution.