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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1654


Senator WALSH (Minister for Resources and Energy)(3.11) —I move:

That the Bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows-

MEAT EXPORT CHARGE BILL 1984

The purpose of this Bill is to impose a charge on the export from Australia of meat that is intended for human consumption. This charge will complement the charge imposed on the slaughter of livestock at an abattoir used for the carrying on of operations in connection with the slaughtering and dressing of animals from which meat for export is obtained under the Live-stock Slaughter ( Export Inspection Charge) Act 1979 and the Live-stock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Collection Act 1979. In brief, the overall charge for the inspection of meat for export will, as a result, have two elements, all meat that is inspected by the Commonwealth will bear a slaughter floor charge. For meat exported, an export charge is to be imposed to recover part of the costs of inspection incurred between the abattoir and the point of export.

At the request of the Government, the Interim Inspection Policy Council reported on 1 May of this year on the impact of meat inspection charges on the viability and competitiveness of the meat industry. The council recommended to government that certain costs of providing the meat inspection service for industry should be removed from the cost base on which charges against industry are determined. These exclusions related to the costs of surplus inspection staff, abnormally high short-term costs of meat security, abnormally high research and development costs and the cost of servicing the Government. The Government agreed to exclude these cost items from the charging base and took early action to reduce the existing meat inspection charge effective from 1 July 1984. The previous charge of $5.40 per adult beast equivalent was reduced to $4. 35 per adult beast equivalent, a reduction of 20 per cent. This action by the Government will save industry an estimated $6m in a full year.

The council also recommended that a new charging structure for meat inspection be implemented consisting of a base charge per carcase for inspection on the slaughter floor and an additional charge per kilogram for exported product. The Government has agreed to this recommendation. Because of budgetary restraints, however, the Government did not agree that there should be a two-year moratorium on implementing the export charge nor that the reduced cost base be made retrospective to 1 October 1983.

A major problem for industry identified by the Policy Council was the inability of export abattoirs to effectively compete with domestic works for the purchase of livestock. The two-tiered charge will enhance export abattoirs ability to compete for stock for processing for sale on the domestic market because of a significant reduction in slaughter floor charges. The intention is that this two -tiered charge will also closely relate to the costs of inspecting stock slaughtered in export works and to the costs incurred beyond the slaughter floor to the point of export. As the operative rate of the proposed export charge is intended to be 2.4c/kilogram, the livestock slaughter component will be further reduced with effect from the date of commencement of the new legislation to $2. 55 for cattle and proportionately for other species.

The new component of the inspection charge will be imposed on an application for the issue of a certificate of fitness for human consumption under section 23 of the Export Control Act 1982, commonly known as a health certificate. Where no such certificate is needed, the charge will be made on an application for the grant of an export permit for the purposes of section 7 of the Export Control Act. The health certificate is the preferred vehicle for imposing the charge as it covers meat which has been exported. However, not all exports require such a certificate. In these cases the charge will be made on the quantity of meat covered by the export permit. Where some or all of this meat is not subsequently exported, provision has been made in the associated Meat Export Charge Collection Bill for refunds of charge.

The new charge will apply to meat and meat products containing more than 5 per cent of meat that are intended for human consumption. The new charge will not apply to meat of game animals, rabbits, hares or birds as export inspection services in relation to those kinds of meat are provided by the Commonwealth in a contractual basis that will be charged for separately. The maximum rate of the charge will be 4.8c/kilogram. In order to calculate the weight of meat or a meat product for the purposes of the charge, the weight of any covering in which the meat or meat products is packed or any other substance packed with the meat or meat products, including bones, will be disregarded.

This Bill provides that a person who makes an application upon which the charge is imposed may lodge a certificate as to the proportion of meat in a meat product and the charge will be calculated accordingly. The charge Bill also provides for regulations to prescribe the manner of determining the net weight for bone-in or carcase meat.

I now turn to the financial impact of the proposed legislation. The passage of this Bill and the associated Meat Export Charge Collection Bill will allow an estimated $8.2m of revenue to be collected during the remainder of 1984-85 for inspection of meat exported for human consumption. The intended operative charge of 2.4c per kilogram that will be set by regulations is designed to recover 50 per cent of the cost of inspection undertaken beyond the slaughter floor.

The export charge will not increase the total cost to industry for the provision of meat inspection services because livestock slaughter export inspection charges will be reduced accordingly. It is simply a restructuring of the charges on industry for inspection of meat by the export inspection service. The combination of a reduced slaughter floor charge per adult beast equivalent and the export charge per kilogram will raise approximately the same amount as the existing charge of $4.35 per adult beast equivalent so that industry will continue to pay only half of the costs of the inspection service. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.

MEAT EXPORT CHARGE COLLECTION BILL 1984

The purpose of this Bill is to provide for collection of the charge to be imposed as a result of the enactment of the Meat Export Charge Bill 1984. This Bill makes provision for collection of the export charge on meat using existing export documentation. The Bill provides that payment of charge shall be at the time of issue of a certificate of fitness for human consumption under section 23 of the Export Control Act, or, where no such certificate will be applied for, the charge will become payable upon application for an export permit for the meat or meat products. Where the export permit is granted at a place other than an office of the Department, the proposed charge will be payable within 28 days of the end of the month in which the application for the permit was made.

The Bill provides that no certificate or permit will be issued or granted to a person who has not paid any charge or penalty in relation to a past certificate or permit. The provisions of the Bill are designed to ensure that liability for charge will not arise where an application for a certificate or permit has been withdrawn, refused or rejected. Where part or all of a consignment for which a certificate has been issued is not exported, a refund of the charge will be made .

Provisions in the collection Bill dealing with penalty for non-payment of charge and access to premises are drafted in similar terms to existing export inspection charge collection legislation dealing with other primary products. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Collard) adjourned.