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Wednesday, 28 September 2022
Page: 13

Ms CATHERINE KING (BallaratMinister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (10:03): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Maintaining Australia's strong biosecurity status ensures our food security and protects agricultural trade.

This can only be achieved through a strong government-industry partnership.

One of the many ways this partnership takes effect is through the work of Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia.

Through these bodies, the Australian government partners with state and territory governments and a number of livestock and plant industry bodies to further our shared biosecurity interests and ensure Australia's world class produce remains in high demand.

Incursions of exotic animal diseases or plant pests into Australia are relatively rare, but they do have serious potential impacts.

Detection of foot-and-mouth disease and lumpy skin disease in one of our nearest neighbouring nations has had the government and livestock industries on high alert.

The government has taken immediate action to prevent these diseases from entering Australia, implementing the strongest biosecurity response in our nation's history.

This includes our three-pronged approach of supporting Indonesia's response to both diseases with animal vaccinations and technical support, stronger measures at the border and increased preparedness here at home.

Because the risk of incursion cannot be entirely mitigated.

This is why governments and industry bodies partner as signatories to the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement and Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed.

If the worst should happen and an exotic animal disease or plant pest should make its way into Australia, emergency eradication responses are mounted and cost-shared under these deeds to give the best possible chance of eradication.

Government and industry investment can avoid significant pest or disease management cost to our producers in the longer term.

Over the past few years, under these emergency response arrangements, we've been able to eradicate citrus canker and three strains of avian influenza.

Varroa jacobsoni—a bee parasite—which we all know as varroa mite, was also eradicated and we are now working to achieve the same outcome for its more problematic cousin, Varroa destructor.

Four kinds of biosecurity levies provide an equitable way for all producers to contribute to the cost of the biosecurity activities and eradication responses that benefit their industry.

Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia levies fund activities such as biosecurity education, planning and surveillance, as well as AHA and PHA membership.

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 Plant Health Australia 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 to include all plant health and biosecurity activities will increase their effectiveness.

This bill will achieve this by broadening the range of permissible uses for those levies.

Plant industries have welcomed this change, as it will allow them to focus available funds on their industry's most pressing biosecurity needs, whether for exotic or established plant pests.

However, meeting response costs remains crucial—it is the main purpose for emergency response levies—and the bill will not change that.

The bill 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 levy arrangements that are likely to be needed if other response deeds are agreed.

Each of these changes will make the AHA and PHA funding legislation more effective, efficient and fit for purpose.

This will strengthen the ability of industries to invest meaningfully in biosecurity and help maintain Australia's enviable position as a world-class agricultural producer and exporter.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.