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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 2328

Dr STONE (Murray) (13:41): The Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 is of critical importance if we are to remain at least somewhat competitive in this era, when the value of the dollar makes it so difficult to export and when we have, as an impost on our agricultural industry, the carbon tax, inflexible labour relations and a whole raft of other government-imposed policy failures.

The amendments in this bill claim to enhance the consistency, efficiency and transparency of agriculture and veterinary chemical approvals, registrations and reconsiderations. They aim to do this through the development of a risk framework which the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority must have regard to. These amendments are supposed to ensure the ongoing safety of agvet chemicals and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of current agvet chemical considerations by implementing a mandatory re-approval and re-registration regime. This is designed to identify any potentially problematic chemicals while minimising any negative impacts on affected businesses.

This all sounds wonderful. We all need to be quite sure that the chemicals we use in agribusiness, especially in food production in Australia, whether for domestic or export consumption, are used consistent with world's best practice. The problem with this legislation, as in so many other cases of legislation brought forward by the Gillard government and, before that, the Rudd government, is that it has been poorly consulted on. It in fact adds to the compliance burden of the sector without any benefits being identifiable in the short term, or even in the longer term. There is a serious problem with costs to the industry. Of course, as we all know when you are talking about agribusiness, these costs are passed on ultimately to the farm producer. Those costs cannot be passed along the chain to the retail sector or to those who buy our exported product.

So we have a serious problem with this bill. The coalition is aiming to amend it to bring about a better agvet chemicals regime, one which actually supports the industry, helps it grow and, indeed, keeps us at the forefront in international reputation. This bill would do quite the opposite. There was in fact an Australian National Audit Office inquiry into the APVMA recently and it confirmed that there is already a reliable technical and scientific regulatory system for effective management of risk. You would think the ANAO's inquiry would have been taken into consideration. But, no, we have this bill, which we can only suspect has been generated by the once happy marriage between the Greens and the Labor government. The Greens perhaps said, 'Let's get nasty about farm chemicals. They do not sound good in the consumer's mind. Let's try to make it harder for chemicals to be accessed and used in Australia.' The problem is that farm and agricultural chemicals are used in Australia in one of the internationally regarded tightest regimes. We can argue that our compliance with—(Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Order. The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour. The member for Murray will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.

Debate interrupted.