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Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 619

Mr NIXON (Gippsland) (Minister for Primary Industry) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act 1977. Honourable members will recall that the Corporation commenced operation on 1 December 1977 and that it replaced the Australian Meat Board. The Government is satisfied that the Corporation has proved to be a very effective body in fostering the interests of the Australian meat and live-stock industries. Experience has shown, however, that the Corporation's effectiveness can be further enhanced and some of its operations streamlined by certain amendments to its authorising Act. The main amendments proposed to be made to the Act provide for increased membership of the Corporation, the creation of a live-stock exporters consultative group for the Corporation, and the discontinuance of the requirement for the Corporation to convene an annual meat industry conference. In place of the conference the Bill will provide the Corporation with a general authority to disseminate information about its policies and decisions in ways which it considers will best suit the industry's requirements. I propose to deal with each of these three matters in turn, and then to move on to the other amendments the Bill seeks to make.

The Corporation's membership will be increased from 9 to 1 1 . There will be an additional member to represent livestock producers; this will increase the number of such members to 5. There will be an additional member to represent meat processors and exporters; this will increase the number of such members to two. These additional members will enable the load currently placed on the 9 Corporation members to be spread more evenly. This will be of advantage to both producer and exporter representatives, but it will be of particular advantage to the meat exporting section of the industry.

This amendment will make it possible for two processors and exporter representatives to divide between them the heavy load of participation in committee work at present being carried by the single representative. The additional producer representative will result in an even better geographic spread of cattle and sheep interests being available to the Corporation. The Bill also proposes the creation of a separate live-stock exporters consultative group to the corporation. The Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act provided for livestock exporter and meat exporter interests both to be represented in a single consultative group. This proved unsatisfactory because of divergent interests of the two classes of exporters. It is now proposed to formalise the arrangements which have been followed in practice whereby livestock exporters have consulted separately with the Corporations.

Clause 1 5 of the Bill seeks to amend the Act to provide for the establishment of two separate consultative groups. One will represent livestock exporters; the other will represent abattoir proprietors, meat exporters and processors. These groups will replace the present single composite group. The decision to replace the Australian Meat Industry Conference with authority for the Corporation to conduct such smaller conferences and meetings as it considers necessary is supported by relevant industry groups. The conference undoubtedly served a useful purpose, but an analysis of its total effectiveness led the Corporation to the conclusion that a number of separate responses, each tailored to meet particular needs, would be more effective.

A number of other amendments are proposed in the Bill. I will refer to some of them very briefly. Clause 4 seeks to amend section 10 of the Act which enables the Corporation to exercise controls over the export of meat and livestock through the issue of licences. These amendments are mainly of a formal nature. They will provide that export licences are issued for a definite rather than an indefinite period, and that regulations may be made concerning licence application procedures. The period for the Corporation's consideration of an application will be extended from one month to two months because the Corporation does not meet in every month.

Clause 5 amends section 1 1 of the Act which makes licences subject to certain conditions, and enables the Corporation to issue directions to licensees in respect of those conditions. The Bill amends this section to put beyond doubt that the listing in the Act of the kind of directions which may be issued is not exhaustive. One amendment to the examples listed in the section will make it clear that the Corporation may require that its prior approval is obtained before particular export transactions occur. Another amendment provides that the Corporation may seek information on prospective export transactions as well as on transactions that have occurred. Other amendments will remove licensees' obligations to exercise controls over exports after they have arrived at their destinations overseas.

The Bill will amend section 14 of the Act which relates to shipping contracts. It provides that a licensee entering into a contract for the sea carriage of meat or livestock in contravention of conditions approved under the section by the Minister may have his licence suspended or cancelled. This section as it stands at present voids such a contract. This is considered to be an inappropriate sanction which may affect parties other than the licensee. The references to contracts of insurance presently in section 14 serve no useful purpose and are a potential source of difficulty. The Bill proposes that they be deleted.

Clause 10 of the Bill seeks to amend section 22 of the Act to provide that the term of office of the Chairman of the Corporation be five years rather than three years as at present. I believe such an amendment is necessary because it will enable the Chairman to remain in office for a longer period than other Corporation members to direct and control its complex operations free from the distractions that are invariably associated with appointments which have a shorter duration.

Of more than passing interest, it will be seen that a new section 29a has been included in the Act to revise the existing provision regarding the obligation of a member to declare at Corporation meetings whether he has a pecuniary interest in a matter to be considered at the meeting. The revision accords with the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry on Public Duty and Private Interest. I also point out that the Bill provides that the Minister shall terminate the appointment of a member should he fail to comply with the requirements of the new section 29A.

I believe all these amendments, and others I have not referred to specifically, will improve the Corporation's administration and enable it further to enhance its already significant record of achievement. World markets for meat, and livestock, are fiercely competitive. The difficulty of seeking out new markets, and consolidating existing markets for Australia's high quality meat and livestock, increases daily. I believe this Bill will so amend the Act that the Corporation will be strengthened in its endeavours to achieve the best possible results for the Australian meat and livestock industries. At the same time, I am confident that the interests of individual producers and exporters will continue to be protected adequately. I commend the Bill to honourable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.

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