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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3322

Mr JOYCE (New EnglandMinister for Agriculture and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (09:04): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

We all want a strong and prosperous agriculture sector in Australia.

We want an agriculture sector that lasts, a sector that grows and delivers great returns for our nation.

Australian farmers are world leaders in producing efficient, sustainable and high-quality produce to meet demand both here and abroad.

The export of these products plays a major role in the future of Australian agriculture, and indeed the future of Australian farmers.

We export around 65 per cent of our farm products, 75 per cent of our fish products and 60 per cent of our forest products, worth more than $41 billion in 2012-13. (Confirmed by ABARES, 3 March 2013)

The export of these products helps support the estimated 134,000 farm businesses across the country—most of which are family owned and run—and a great many more jobs for hardworking Australians in our primary industries.

This government is working to boost the competitiveness and productivity of the Australian agriculture sector.

Creating new market opportunities and maintaining existing export arrangements supports the government's trade objectives while assisting those at the farm gate, which is vitally important for agriculture in this country.

Underpinning it all is the export legislation which safeguards Australia's international reputation and position as an agricultural exporter, providing confidence that Australian agricultural exports meet the requirements of importing countries.

One of our greatest advantages is our 'clean' label, as a country whose product is phytosanitarily looked after and correct, which gives people a great sense of security when they consume it. People who have had experience around the irrigation areas of St George would acknowledge what a clean, green place our irrigation country is.

Export legislation provides the Department of Agriculture with the authority to grant certification services to exporters and—consistent with the Australian cost recovery guidelines—to recover the costs of providing these services.

The Export Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 amends four acts administered by the department.

Amendments to the Export Control Act 1982 and the Export Inspection and Meat Charges Collection Act 1985 will remedy technical defects in these acts and allow for consistent and equitable cost recovery from export activities.

Currently, inconsistent definitions mean that the department has been unable to recover establishment registration and quantity charges for the exportation of certain products.

Put simply, exporters of some plant products like nuts and seeds, for example, are not paying establishment registration and quantity charges which are being paid by exporters of other plant products like grain.

This is not fair, when all exporters have access to the services that they need to export their products. We must get a fair and equitable coverage of costs across industries.

These amendments will address this inequity and provide a more level playing field by aligning the definitions in the Export Inspection and Meat Charges Collection Act 1985 and the Export Control Act 1982.

Removing the definitional inconsistencies between the two acts will allow for consistent and equitable cost recovery for services provided by the department to exporters.

The bill will also amend the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997 (AMLI Act) to enable the department to recover costs relating to services, such as issuing quota certificates for quotas that are administered by other countries.

The costs of granting quota certificates for quota administered by Australia are already recovered from the users of the services. Amendments to the AMLI Act will enable the department to recover costs when it is not responsible for allocating the quota but, nonetheless, is required to issue quota certificates.

No fees are being proposed by this act—and any cost recovery for quotas will be determined through a cost recovery impact statement in consultation with the industry.

The proposed amendments will enable the department to recover the estimated $1.9 million per annum for providing export services for commodities which are currently excluded from cost recovery.

These amendments are largely supported by industry—who like me—believes that costs for export services carried out by the department should be appropriately and consistently recovered.

The Export Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 will also correct a referencing anomaly in the Export Control Act 1982, which will enable departmental officers to request search warrants by telephone or other electronic means. This will enable enforcement operations to be conducted in an appropriate time frame.

From time to time, authorised officers are required to access registered premises—being ships, planes, vehicles or premises—where officers believe that there may be evidential material relating to breaches of this act. Correction of this incorrect referencing will expedite the execution of warrants.

The Export Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 and the associated bills which I will also introduce to make the relevant consequential amendments, are important pieces of legislation that will not only provide a fairer and more consistent approach to cost recovery for services provided to exporters, but will also provide departmental officers greater access to important documents and information in a timely manner, making it easier for them to perform the important role of protecting the integrity of Australia's export commodities.

Madam Speaker, I apologise for my over-reference to phytosanitary correctness, but it is the Gut Foundation day and we want everyone to have their proper bowel screening.

Debate adjourned.