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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 783

Mr HARTSUYKER (CowperAssistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) (18:25): I am delighted to be able to speak on these bills. These bills are another example of the government's commitment to improving regulation and reducing red tape. It is important that we review Commonwealth legislation from time to time to ensure that laws are up to date and achieve efficient and effective administration. The omnibus bills continue the work undertaken in the agriculture and water resources portfolio to update and improve its legislation. Importantly, the two bills will get rid of unnecessary regulation placed on industry. For example, by removing certificates that are no longer needed or used by the honey industry, removing licences for the export of meat by-products which are not required, removing duplicate reporting requirements, and improving the renewal process for fishing and scientific permits so that permit holders do not waste time completing unnecessary paperwork.

The bills also include practical amendments to streamline government administration and improve government efficiency. Government costs will be cut by reducing the number of statutory agencies in the portfolio where functions can be undertaken by other bodies. A number of government agencies and industry owned companies will benefit from the removal of unnecessary regulation that creates administrative burden. For example, there is no need to table corporate documents in parliament where the information is already publicly available. The relevant research and development corporations to which this legislation still applies already make this information available on their websites. The bills will also help to make our laws clearer and easier to read. Confusing or outdated provisions will be removed so that businesses and individuals understand the laws that apply to them. Finally, 12 acts that are no longer needed will be repealed.

I would like to comment on a number of the contributions by members opposite. Firstly, I would like to comment on contributions by the member for Hunter. The good old member for Hunter; you can count on the member for Hunter to get things mixed up. I would like to specifically comment with regard to his contribution on the APVMA. I would just like to make it clear to the House that the APVMA advisory board costs over $200,000 annually and has no decision-making powers. I would also like to update the House on the fact that the board's term finished on 13 December 2015. The APVMA, the NFF, CropLife and the AMA support the decision to disband this board on the next repeal day. And while the board was not directly consulted, they had provided advice to the APVMA that direct engagement with agricultural and veterinary chemical end users on specific issues may be more effective than formal consultation mechanisms such as an advisory board. As this is a cost recovery agency, the savings will go to industry not to government. The APVMA has put together a communication strategy outlining the alternative mechanisms in place that will allow strong stakeholder and community engagement while at the same time saving industry money.

At this juncture, I would also like to comment on the contribution by the member for Canberra. The member raised concerns about items which this bill will no longer require to be reported to parliament, such as the annual report, the statutory funding agreement—or SFA—with the department and compliance reports with the SFA. I note the annual report and SFA will be required to be published on the LiveCorp website, so the SFA signed with the department will be available to the public.

There are no changes proposed to reports required relating to animal welfare performance in the live export trade. The proposed changes do not have any implications for six-monthly reporting to parliament on the carriage of livestock on voyages out of Australia in accordance with section 57AA of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997. Reporting under section 57AA is undertaken by the minister.

I would also like to comment on the contribution by the member for Watson. For member for Watson to come into this place and threaten amendments to the Basin Plan is truly bizarre. The last time the member for Watson spoke about the Basin Plan in this chamber last November, he spoke extensively about the negotiation that went into settling the plan, as he did today. Yet, he now threatens to introduce amendments to the Commonwealth parliament without any consultation with basin-state jurisdictions. This approach is a sure-fire way to blow the whole thing up. The Commonwealth government is committed to implementing the Basin Plan to the letter and spirit of the 2013 Intergovernmental Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray-Darling Basin and the legislative provisions in the Water Act and the Basin Plan.

In regard to the conditions around the recovery of an additional 450 gigalitres of water for the environment, the Commonwealth has no intention to water down the requirement for positive or neutral socioeconomic outcomes. To borrow from the member for Watson's former speech on the Basin Plan in this place:

The health of the basin on a permanent ongoing basis is in front of us, it is possible and we can deliver it. I simply ask that the government continue to hold its nerve, and I ask the states to deliver on the agreement that had previously been reached so that the plan that was put into law in 2012 can continue to deliver, in Australia, with a healthy working basin.

So member for Watson, do not come into this place threatening to backflip on that agreement. In your own words, you said hold your nerve on the agreement that has already been reached.

Last month, the South Australian Minister for Water and the River Murray, Ian Hunter, wrote to Minister Joyce suggesting the ministerial council seeks some expert advice around the recovery of the additional environmental water. Mr Joyce has responded to Minister Hunter positively and written to his other basin state colleagues agreeing to carry out this work and proposing terms of reference. This is what cooperation looks like and it offers the best prospect of implementing the plan—not coming into this place or going to the media with ill-thought out threats. If the member for Watson wants to protect his legacy, he should rethink his approach.

I was interested in comments by the National Farmers Federation. In fact, vice president of the water taskforce chair, Les Gordon, who said of the member for Watson's comments:

Such a move would completely undermine the fundamental state-commonwealth collaborative mechanism that underpins the Basin Plan.

Mr Gordon said that as the minister who negotiated the Basin Plan, Mr Burke knows only too well that the additional 450 gigalitres of water in the plan can only be recovered where this will have a neutral or improved socioeconomic outcome and:

The evidence presented to date by the NSW and Victorian State Governments is yet to demonstrate that this neutral or improved test can be met.

He said that the NFF's message to Mr Burke was clear:

Let COAG and Minco get on with the job of finding a pathway forward to implement the Basin Plan and avoid inflicting further negative impacts on the social and economic fabric of the Basin's industries and communities.

He also said:

Of all people - Mr Burke should know the importance of working together to deliver the Basin Plan.

A stunt such as this today—

and I would say it is nothing more than a stunt—

would be nothing more than grandstanding and our basin communities deserve better.

It just goes to show that this is nothing more than political opportunism by the member for Watson.

The legislation that we have before the House is important legislation that will continue the government's agenda of reducing red tape. The government is absolutely committed to ensuring sustainable agriculture, sustainable community outcomes, sustainable environmental outcomes through the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. It should not be the member for Watson's role to be coming in here at a minute to midnight with ill-thought out ideas in relation to the Murray-Darling Plan. It is too important a plan for that and the member for Watson should rethink his strategy. I commend the bills to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.