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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 4114

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) (11:39 AM) —in reply—The Rural Adjustment Amendment Bill 2009 amends clause 7 of the Rural Adjustment Act 1992 to allow for the reappointment of the National Rural Advisory Council, NRAC, members for two subsequent terms after their initial term. The Rural Adjustment Act 1992 specifies that the NRAC’s main role is to provide advice on rural adjustment and regional issues, including on whether areas should be assessed as being in exceptional circumstances. Four of the eight current serving NRAC members cease their second terms on 30 June 2009 and without this legislative amendment being passed would not be eligible to serve for a third term.

Passage of the bill will ensure that members who have developed considerable expertise in undertaking assessments can continue to make significant contributions to the NRAC by serving a third term. The bill in no way changes the current longstanding NRAC arrangements, and the assessment of the eligibility of farms in drought declared areas for EC assistance will remain unchanged. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Rural Adjustment Act 1992 to allow for the reappointment of a National Rural Advisory Council member for two subsequent terms after their initial term. The bill will assist in ensuring members of the NRAC who have developed considerable expertise are able to continue to contribute for a third term of up to three years.

Like Senator Colbeck, I acknowledge the expertise and contributions of the current members, led by the chair, Mr Keith Perrett. It is not an easy task. Some of the circumstances can be quite harrowing, as Senator Colbeck well outlined with reference to some direct experiences in my home state of Tasmania. So I thank Senator Colbeck for that contribution. I do not agree with some of his later criticisms about the impact of government policy, but I will leave that for debate another time due to time pressures. I do not intend to rebut that criticism, but I thank him for his other comments about the contribution of the NRAC members and the particular detailed circumstances of the impact of drought generally but with specific reference to Tasmania. I commend the bill to the chamber.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.