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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3238


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (12:32): I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 on behalf of a local agribusiness in my electorate of Cowan. I would like to begin by saying that I, along with the coalition, support the stated objective of the bill, which is to reduce regulatory compliance costs for business and to improve competitiveness. It is disgraceful, however, but typical of this Labor government that what this so-called agvet chemical reform actually represents is nothing but the government trying to deliver an election promise made to the Greens, at the expense of our hardworking agricultural industry and those who work in that industry within the electorate of Cowan and other places around the country. This bill is designed, first and foremost, to implement a reregistration system, to raise the cost of chemical registration and to make the registration of many chemicals uneconomic. The reregistration process adds absolutely no triggers; it is simply another expensive recheck of the triggers, funded by the industry.

I was recently contacted by a local business that has been working in the import industry for over 10 years through the current practices listed by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority regarding this issue. The business is extremely concerned about the significant increases of APVMA application fees proposed under this legislation. If this bill is passed before 1 July 2013, this business is going to be faced with paying fee increases that will come into effect on 1 July 2013, 1 July 2014 and 1 January 2015. It is appalling that businesses should be forced to pay more for something that will deliver absolutely no extra benefit to them or to the industry.

Internationally, our registration process is struggling to compete. It has been suggested that the Australian industry is being laughed at by our overseas suppliers, as we are operating on a far from level playing field. This is one of the key reasons that the industry and the coalition supported a reform to make it more efficient.

As I said earlier, this legislation is all about a deal the Labor government did with the Greens. This legislation will give the green lobby designated time frames to concentrate on campaigns to have chemicals removed. As it has been said by previous speakers, the campaigners will run a campaign on a chemical because of a tenuous link with a disease that is unscientific and forces the APVMA to withdraw registration because of political pressure, not scientific fact. The re-registration system does not introduce any new triggers but simply makes the APVMA run costly rechecks to the existing triggers; costs which are passed onto local businesses.

I can just imagine a green lobbyist trying to wear down the industry, making it too difficult to continue, instead of allowing the industry to have science-based reviews triggered by candid issues. Despite Labor's and the Greens' claims, this bill is not designed to reform the chemical registration process or to improve efficiency. What this bill will do is create a net loss in the efficiency of the regulator and reduce the ability to identify and review suspect chemicals.

Unlike the Labor government, we are committed to implementing measures that will cut unnecessary red tape and will assist business in an industry, not burden them. For this reason, the coalition will not be supporting this bill in its current form, and the Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food Security will move amendments in the third reading stage to delay commencement by 12 months. This will allow time for the development of a risk management framework which will clearly detail the application requirements. This is essential in supporting other efficiency measures, including Shut the Gate and elapsed time frame reforms.

The coalition also believes that registrants should be given the opportunity to work with the APVMA to road-test the risk framework, to make sure that it operates in the way in which it was intended. To date, this has not occurred and there has been no consultation on the risk framework. It has been identified that there are considerable gaps in the current manual of requirements and guidelines which must be addressed. Lastly, without a comprehensive risk framework to deliver high-quality applications to the APVMA, they may struggle with applications that do not have all of the information required. This would result in more applications being denied, longer time frames for decisions and a higher refusal rate.

The coalition is not arguing that the current system is perfect, nor do we consider that every aspect of the bill is incorrect. On the whole, the bill makes a number of changes to arrangements to manage agvet chemical registration and improvements to compliance enforcement arrangements, most of which try to improve efficiency. As such, industry supports the measures and so do we. What we are seriously concerned about is that, while the intent of the bill is right, the bill in its entirety only adds to the problem. Our amendments will improve the bill and ensure that the implementation of these aspects that are beneficial can effectively proceed.