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Wednesday, 28 June 2000
Page: 18393

Mr TRUSS (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (9:31 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Quarantine Act 1908 and the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980.

A new Part VA will be introduced into the Quarantine Act 1908 to cater for the use of a computerised system for the quarantine clearance of imported goods.

The government, in its response to the report Australian quarantine: a shared responsibility, accepted recommendation 63 of the report, which proposed the development and increased use of electronic information systems to speed the clearance of cargo, subject to the development of satisfactory quality assurance systems and audit procedures.

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) has made considerable advances in the development of a computer based system for the clearance of cargo in response to this recommendation. The system will be programmed to issue notices which, under the Quarantine Act 1908 in its present form, can be done only by the Director of Quarantine or a quarantine officer.

The new Part VA provides a legislative framework for this system, supported by offence provisions. This framework provides for notices to be issued by computer in respect of imported goods, to order goods into quarantine, to release goods from quarantine, to require goods to be treated in a certain manner, to require goods to be left at a specified place, to require goods to be moved to a specified place and to indicate the extent, if any, to which goods may be dealt with.

To ensure that the computerised system operates within the scope of the act, a provision has been inserted in Part VA stating that the Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the computer program concerned does not result in electronic notices ordering goods into quarantine unless there are reasonable grounds to believe there is an unacceptably high level of quarantine risk in respect of the goods.

A number of minor amendments to the act are also proposed. One of the amendments clarifies that sections 6C and 14A extend to both the regulations and proclamation. Another amendment clarifies that a person may be appointed under section 9AA to be both a quarantine officer plants as well as a quarantine officer animals.

The amendments recognise that quarantinable pests and quarantinable diseases may themselves be matters of quarantine concern by amending sections 18, 35, 48AB and 66AA of the act. At present the act only recognises the risk arising from goods infected with a quarantinable pest or a quarantinable disease. The amendments confirm that, for the purposes of section 46A of the Act, offences against the laws of a state or territory, in addition to offences against the laws of the Commonwealth, may be relevant to a person's suitability to manage a place where goods subject to quarantine may be treated or otherwise dealt with. The amendments also allow for directions to be given to the person in control of a vehicle under section 48AB of the act. The present situation, that directions may only be given to the owner, is impractical as the person in control of the vehicle may not be the owner, and searching for the owner could interfere with the timely and efficient management of the quarantine risk.

The amendments also clarify that arrangements with persons under section 46A and 66B of the act may extend to the performance of certain quarantine activities in respect of vessels.

The amendments allow seizure notices to be given to consignees under section 68 of the act. At present the notice of seizure must be given to the importer. However, particularly in the case of mail items, the only person with any interest in the item in Australia may be the person to whom the item is addressed. In practice, this person, the consignee, is not always the importer. This amendment will ensure that the requirements of section 68 are satisfied by giving notice of the seizure to the consignee.

The amendments to the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980 are to address inconsistencies between the voting arrangements for payers of the wine grapes levy and payers of the wine export charge at the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation's annual general meeting.

These inconsistencies arose in 1997 when the wine export charge was introduced and inadvertently not all relevant sections of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act were amended at that time.

The repeal of section 29Z and amendments to subparagraph 46(1)(a) allow rules on voting arrangements to be made by regulation.

It has always been the intention that the payers of the wine export charge have the same voting rights at annual general meetings as the payers of the wine grapes levy. These amendments will ensure this occurs.

I present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Horne) adjourned.