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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8656

Dr MIKE KELLY (Eden-MonaroParliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (11:34): I appreciate all the contributions that honourable members have made in this debate and I certainly acknowledge the passion and interest in their electorates that they have reflected via their involvement in the issue of biosecurity and of course, in particular, the magnificent horse culture that exists in this country. I will comment more on that in a moment. To summarise, we have been talking—and the discussion has ranged widely—about the Horse Disease Response Levy Bill 2011, the Horse Disease Response Levy Collection Bill 2011 and the Horse Disease Response Levy (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011, which provide for a mechanism to impose, collect and appropriate new levies on manufactured horse feed and worm treatments for horses. These levies have been requested by the horse industry, it is important to note, which has decided that the simultaneous application of a levy on worm treatments for horses and manufactured horse feed would provide the most equitable coverage of the industry.

The levies will be payable on the disposal of manufactured horse feed and worm treatments for horses from one party to another, and will be appropriated through the Animal Health Australia organisation. The levies will be set at a rate of zero, but the bills allow for regulations to be made to set a positive rate when required. This will provide the horse industry with a funding mechanism to repay the Commonwealth for moneys expended on its behalf in responding to an emergency outbreak of an animal disease affecting horses. The bills provide arrangements for governments and the horse industry to effectively and efficiently fund a quick, coordinated response to an emergency horse disease outbreak.

Members have made many interesting and passionate contributions—and I acknowledge the honesty of the member for Maranoa, who reflected that the equine influenza outbreak in August 2007 occurred on the previous government's watch. But we have approached the resolution of this issue in a bipartisan spirit. Members have commented on the significance of the horse culture in Australia, and I guess there is no region in the country that reflects that more than my own, as the home of the man from Snowy River. In fact, my family's first farm in Eden-Monaro, back in 1847, was on the Snowy River.

We have a big horse culture and industry in Eden-Monaro, with many equine schools, showjumping and horse racing. It is such a vital part of our community that you could not imagine Eden-Monaro without our horse culture. So that period from August 2007 onwards was devastating. All of our country shows were adversely affected through that period. It was so sad to see the absence of horses at those shows and the scrambling to try and fill that void with motorcycle displays and the like, dog races et cetera. As thrilling as they were, the absence of horses really left a hole for us and knocked a lot of people around across a broad range of activities—not just horse racing but the leisure industry as well. For me personally it was a big issue that we had to confront, and we have confronted it, as I mentioned, in a bipartisan way. As has been commented on by members, the majority of stakeholders do support these arrangements.

Members also commented on biosecurity and whether or not we are adequately addressing that issue, and I feel that I should make reference to what this government is doing in that space, from the lessons that we have learned. It is important to note that, in the 2011-12 budget, the government has committed very high and significant levels of spending—$425.4 million, in fact, over four years, for our border control, quarantine and biosecurity operations, including $205.6 million for Customs. In that budget, there is also $15.4 million for continuing eradication programs, $4.2 million to improve information access and communications in relation to our biosecurity systems and $19.1 million for staged investment for post-entry quarantine arrangements. In addition, there is work in progress relating to the budgeting for and expenditure on future post-entry quarantine arrangements for land acquisition.

This government stands with a proud record of addressing the biosecurity issues that have emerged. I note the comments that have been made in relation to the apple situation, but we are dealing with a decision that has been handed down by the World Trade Organisation. This government has been, as previous governments have been, out there solidly and aggressively advocating for the liberalisation of trade in the agricultural sector. There is nothing that would benefit our country more than the liberalisation of trade, and we were aggressively arguing this case only very recently as I attended the agricultural ministers meeting of the G20; we pushed this case very vigorously. The sole focus of that meeting was on food security and price volatility. The research that was done to underpin that meeting focused squarely upon the issue of trade liberalisation, as did the FAO meeting that we had in Rome following that, where Kofi Annan gave an impassioned speech about the devastating impacts of subsidies to agriculture, now approaching $400 billion—a massive distortion of the trade, and a holding back of countries like those in Africa, which has 60 per cent of the world's uncultivated land. To meet our food security needs pushing towards the huge population expansion we will see by 2050, and to feed a hungry world, we have to break down those barriers and eliminate those distortions, and there will be massive opportunities for our own farmers in that space.

I note the comments in relation to the risk and threat of fire blight. Prior to the last election, Batlow was in my electorate. I have met with great farmers like Greg Mouat and his crew. The concern about fire blight is a genuine one, and the security measures that we will put in place will certainly be targeted at and focused on that threat.

I thank members for their contributions and I welcome the fact that we are now able to step forward on this issue to meet the threats that we face to our horse culture and the fact that we have a mechanism to address it adequately in the future while maintaining our agricultural production and exports as well as the environment and public health.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.