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Wednesday, 20 November 2013
Page: 754


Mr JOYCE (New EnglandMinister for Agriculture and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (09:26): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill is part of a package of bills streamlining rural research and development legislation to ensure it remains responsive and adapted to industry and national needs. It will commence concurrently with the other bills in the package, the Rural Research and Development Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 and the Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Amendment Bill 2013.

The Australian agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries have asked government to impose levies to allow producers to collaboratively fund essential industry services. These include conducting research and development, extension and in some cases marketing, through the 15 R&D corporations. Levy rates are set in regulations, but cannot exceed a maximum rate that is set in the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Act 1999.

This bill removes maximum research, development and marketing levy rates from the act. The bill provides that the effective levy rates, set by regulations, must be the subject of a recommendation from relevant industry bodies, who must in turn consult with levy payers. The bill provides that the regulations will not be able to set a levy rate higher than the highest rate recommended by industry. This will safeguard against arbitrary levy increases by government.

New consultation requirements in the bill provide greater detail and consistency regarding who must be consulted when setting rates, and how to consult levy payers if there is no declared representative body.

If an industry wishes to increase a levy rate above the legislated maximum, in response to a changing market or seasonal conditions, it can be a time-consuming and costly process. The amendments will allow producers to respond more quickly to changing needs or conditions, by cutting the time between a rate increase proposal and the change coming into effect. Removing the need to amend the act will reduce this red tape and streamline the process.

In 2011 the Productivity Commission recommended the removal of maximum levy rates following a review of the R&D corporation model. Industry representative bodies, other stakeholders and the R&D corporations were consulted on the changes during and after the review. There is broad support for the removal of maximum rates.

Conclusion

This bill encourages primary industries to control their investment in R&D, extension and marketing. The levy-setting process will be easier and more responsive to industry needs. Robust consultation and consensus requirements ensure that levy setting remains in the hands of industry itself. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.