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Thursday, 25 November 2021
Page: -1


Mr TIM WILSON (GoldsteinAssistant Minister to the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (10:39): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Australian agricultural produce is rightly regarded as world class. A strong government-industry partnership is crucial to maintaining Australia's already high biosecurity status, protecting its food security and agricultural trade.

One of the many ways this partnership is evident is through the work of Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia. Through these bodies, the Australian government works with state and territory governments and a host of dedicated animal and plant industries to further our biosecurity interests and ensure Australian produce remains in high demand.

The risk of exotic animal diseases and plant pests making their way to Australia is ever increasing. Incursions are relatively rare but have serious potential impacts. Acting swiftly to eradicate these exotic pests and diseases whenever possible avoids the significant cost to our producers of managing them if they establish here. This joint interest has seen governments and industry bodies partner as signatories to the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement and Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed.

In the last two years, government and industry, using these arrangements, were together able to eradicate citrus canker, Varroa mite (which is a bee parasite) and three strains of avian influenza.

Industry investment in biosecurity is most often funded through four kinds of biosecurity levies. These levies provide an equitable way for all producers to contribute to the cost of biosecurity activities and eradication responses that benefit their industry. Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia levies fund, for example, activities such as biosecurity education, planning and surveillance.

Emergency Animal Disease Response and Emergency Plant Pest Response levies primarily fund industry contributions to eradication responses. They can also be spent on other biosecurity activities once these financial obligations are met.

An issue for PHA member industries is that for the EPPR levy this alternative use is limited to purposes related to emergency plant pests under the plant response deed. Increasing the flexibility in how these levies can be spent will increase their effectiveness.

The bill will achieve this by broadening the range of permissible uses for these levies. Plant industries have welcomed this change, as it will allow them to focus available funds on their industry's most pressing biosecurity needs. However, meeting response costs remains crucial—it is the main purpose for emergency response levies—and the bill will not change that.

This is just one way the bill will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of biosecurity levy funding arrangements. It will also modernise and streamline the AHA and PHA funding legislation, including by removing redundant or duplicative provisions.

For example, a complex provision for funding biosecurity related research and development activities through PHA levies will be removed in favour of using PHA's more straightforward industry planning processes.

The bill will also simplify the process by which the relevant PHA industry member for a specific biosecurity levy is determined. This will reduce regulatory and administrative burden.

Honey bees provide valuable pollination services to a myriad of plant industries and the honey industry's biosecurity activities are now characterised as plant biosecurity. Therefore, references to honey in the AHA act can now be removed.

The bill will also allow the AHA act to facilitate the key arrangements that are likely to be needed if other response deeds are agreed.

These changes by the bill will each contribute to making the AHA and PHA funding acts more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. This will help maintain Australia's enviable position as a first-class agricultural producer and exporter.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.