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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 9496

Mr JOHN COBB (Calare) (10:01): I rise to speak on the National Residue Survey (Excise) Levy Amendment (Deer) Bill 2011. The bill amends the existing act to increase the cap on the national residue survey component of the deer slaughter levy from 4c to 10.5c. It is not proposed that 10.5c be levied at this stage. Governments, as we did and as this government is doing, always increase the amount by more than the requirement to save coming back to parliament every Pancake Day when more is needed. In this case, this whole thing is happening because the deer industry in Australia needs certain money to do MRL testing levels so that our clients overseas are comfortable with whatever is in the deer meat they are importing from Australia. This has to be paid for by the industry.

The industry is probably less than half what it was 20 years ago in terms of numbers, so there are fewer people paying it; they need the money to actually do the MRL testing. The Deer Industry Association of Australia has support from its members and we have the bipartisan support of the parliament to do what the industry is asking. I should mention here that 85 per cent of the product of the industry is exported to Europe and other places.

Deer farming has a 100-year long history in Australia. It is primarily located in regional areas across most states. It is based primarily on temperate deer species: 50 per cent fallow, which is the production base; red deer and elk, 40 per cent; and the remaining 10 per cent is made up of more tropical species, particularly rusa and chital deer.

There are over 500 producers involved in the deer industry. To be quite honest, I am a little surprised that the number is actually that high at this time. It is in one of its cycles, and at this present time it is not the biggest cycle it has been in. The bulk of the industry is concentrated in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania, and some of the more tropical species are in Queensland and WA. The industry had a peak production of 30 tonnes with a value of almost $2.5 million. Fifty-five per cent of the production value comes from venison and venison products. The remaining 45 per cent is velvet and antler products.

The deer population in our country nine years ago was estimated at 200,000. However, with the long drought the numbers of the national herd and the fluctuations of the industry, that was probably less than 100,000 four years ago. The proposed changes occur at a time when the deer industry has suffered a significant decline in production, so they need the same money out of 100,000 that they got from 200,000. The deer monitoring program is critical for maintaining access to international markets, as I said earlier, particularly to the EU, where it is a very traditional meat. Industry requested these changes to ensure residue testing can be continued at a level to provide continued access to these markets.

In conclusion, the coalition supports the increase in the levy to 10.5c. Only 6c is what the industry proposes to have the government levy at this time.