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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7103

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (BraddonParliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (11:51): It gives me great pleasure to sum up the debate on the Rural Research and Development Legislation Amendment Bill 2013, a bill which is very significant for the primary industry sector of our economy. I would like to thank the members for Calare, Murray and Lyons, in particular, for their comments. Also, I cannot let my friend from the Riverina leave the chamber without making a few remarks on the comments that he made.

First and foremost, contrary to the templated sheet that was handed out to those opposite, consultation on not only these amendments but also the intent and most of the content of the bill was carried out over a three-year period and very much formed the content of the 2012 research and development policy statement of this government. I hope the member for Riverina—who is, I must say, a very diligent member—has read that policy statement, because he, like me, in terms of primary industries and rural and regional development, believes that good ideas should be shared and, if they are very good, they should be followed. Prior to the exposure draft going out it was offered to some 72 relevant stakeholders, and only seven of them replied and even the majority of those were highly positive. The member for Riverina—who I know gets around his constituency and his agencies—was able to report a positive response to these amendments, and do you know why? It is because they have been part of the consultation process since cocky was an egg. So, frankly, I think that was a bit of a red herring.

I would leave you with one thought before we go on to the amendments themselves. This government created a ministry for Regional Development Australia and has done more for regional and rural Australia in the last three years in particular in terms of infrastructure and recognition than the other side did over decades. I think the Nationals member representing the Riverina is a little bit envious of what we have been able to do in that time, and I think it is only fair to due give recognition to that.

Anyway, let us move on to the amendments. The Rural Research and Development Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 updates and refines the Australian Research and Development Corporation, or RDC, model in line with policy commitments made by the government in the Rural Research and Development Policy Statement some years ago. In preparing the policy statement the government met and consulted with stakeholders around Australia and took into account many submissions. Extensive consultation continued in the process leading to these legislative amendments before us.

The bill will allow statutory RDCs to carry out marketing activities on behalf of their industries if a marketing levy is in place. RDCs undertaking marketing will be able to use their industry expertise to provide cost-effective, targeted marketing activities in accordance with industry needs and priorities. I would like to note that no changes to levy rates or new levies are part of these amendments. The amendments will encourage private sector investment in rural R&D by extending to all RDCs the arrangements for government matching funding to voluntary contributions for eligible research and development.

Statutory funding agreements for statutory RDCs are proposed to drive performance improvements and increase transparency in the delivery of R&D services. Funding agreements have been a flexible mechanism for providing government guidance and oversight to industry owned RDCs, and these amendments will extend that mechanism to statutory RDCs. Amendments in the bill change the process for selection of statutory RDC board directors to improve transparency and efficiency. The amendments promote due consideration of diversity in the selection process. These amendments aim to ensure high-quality boards for RDCs and reduce the time and delay associated with securing them.

The bill proposes to allow the collection and matching of individual fishery industry levies, subject to a cap based on the gross value of production of that individual fishery. This will allow specific fisheries to propose levies to invest in R&D for their industry and to undertake marketing in a similar way to other rural commodities. The burdensome requirement for ministerial approval of statutory RDCs' annual operating plans will be removed and other minor technical matters will be addressed.

The Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Amendment Bill 2013 removes the maximum levy rates for research and development and marketing levies on primary industry products. Similarly, the Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Amendment Bill removes the maximum charge rates for R&D and marketing changes that are duties of Customs. The numerical maximum levy and charge rates will be removed, and the rates will be limited to no more than the level recommended by an industry body following consultation with the levy and charge payers. The amendments will not change any levy or charge rates that are in operation at the moment, but they will streamline the process for changing rates in the future. Levies and charges may be increased following a request by industry, but will not be allowed to be set above the rate recommended by industry. This will allow industries to manage their collective investment in research and marketing whilst also providing a safeguard for levy payers against an arbitrary increase to rates.

Finally, I would like to thank the ministerial staff, the DAFF departmental officers and the drafters of the bill for their work and I also want to thank all those who contributed to the consultation process. I recommend this legislation to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.