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Thursday, 28 October 2010
Page: 1039


Senator COLBECK (1:02 PM) —I rise to indicate the opposition’s support for the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Amendment Bill 2010, which seeks to amend the act to increase the cap on the research and development component of the chicken laying levy from 10c to 30c per laying chicken. The bill only approves a cap of 30c and is not a levy of 30c. The industry has voted in favour of a levy of 13.5c per laying chicken, which will be implemented as a result of the passing of this legislation. The levy is imposed on laying chickens hatched at any hatchery where at least 1,000 laying chickens are hatched in a financial year and it is imposed on laying chickens that are older than 48 hours of hatching. It is important to note that the industry has consulted widely in making this decision to raise the levy.

One thing I would like to put on the record is the potential impact on the price of eggs in case there is any concern that that might occur. According to the information I have, on average each laying chicken will produce about 27.5 dozen eggs during its productive life, worth about $100 at the current retail price, and therefore the cost of the proposed levy increase per dozen eggs will be about 0.09c from 1 July 2009 and an additional 0.013c from 1 July 2010. However, due to the competition in the wholesale market for eggs, egg producers tend to be price takers and would most likely absorb the costs, so there is little chance of a significant increase in cost.

I will note that it is important that our R&D is maintained at competitive levels. It has been a factor that has maintained a competitive advantage for our agricultural producers. I also note that there is some concern about the current circumstance with the government’s potential reduction of R&D for the agricultural sector. It is one of the critical matters for agriculture going forward. According to the former CEO of the National Farmers Federation—I think the former CEO or, if not, the about to be former CEO—Mr Fargher, Australian farmers have a track record of success through research and innovation to lead almost all Australian industries, with average productivity growth of 2.8 per cent per year for the last 30 years. Unfortunately, that productivity growth has started to fall away, so it is important that we continue our efforts in respect of research and development for our agricultural sector so that they can maintain their global competitiveness. I am happy to indicate the opposition’s support for the legislation.