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Tuesday, 21 June 1994
Page: 1787

Senator WEST —My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. Meat industry levies are used to raise funds for the operations of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, the Meat Research Corporation, the national residue survey and the Exotic Animal Disease Preparedness Consultative Council and for cattle disease eradication. Can the minister advise the Senate of the changes to the cattle transaction levy and the impact on industry revenue?

Senator COLLINS —I thank Senator West for her question and her continuing interest in rural issues. It is correct that the levies are used to fund the organisations that Senator West has named. I am pleased to announce reductions in those levy rates to the Senate. The new rates will apply from July of this year. The rates will see the cattle transaction levy fall from $4 to $3.60. The slaughter levy on sheep will fall from 55.8c to 47.7c per head, and on lambs it will fall from 105.8c to 89.7c. These reductions in the levies will provide producers with an additional $16 million in their pockets, which I am sure the industry will welcome.

  These reductions reflect the fact that levy collections in recent years have been higher than expected because of the level of sales and the important decisions that have been taken by two of the corporations to reduce the level of reserves that are being held by them. The government has also been able to reduce the national residue survey component of the levy for sheep and lambs by improved efficiency in the delivery of that program. In addition, the government has agreed to a request from the Cattle Council of Australia for an additional 8c levy component of the transaction levy to be paid directly into the NRS trust fund. This will ensure product quality for the cattle industry through targeted residue testing and producer education. I congratulate the cattle industry on taking this initiative.

  The ability to meet consumer demand for clean food will play a large part in determining the future prosperity of the industry in Australia. The reductions in the levy rates confirm a downward trend in livestock industry levy rates. Prior to December 1991, the cattle transaction levy was as high as $6.25. Within the next few weeks, I will release an important industry discussion paper which will focus on the recommendations of the Industry Commission to the government to improve the productivity and competitiveness of this very important Australian industry—the meat industry.

  An important component in that equation is the role played by statutory bodies in the industry. I encourage all industry participants to take a serious and constructive look at those arrangements and to participate in the industry consultative process that will take place on that discussion paper.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr Deputy President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.