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Thursday, 2 December 2004
Page: 8


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (9:55 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 2004

In October 2003 the Government commissioned a broad-ranging review of Australia's livestock export industry, with particular reference to the circumstances surrounding the MV Cormo Express incident. The Keniry Review recommended that industry should be responsible for research and development and management of quality assurance systems to support its members achieve best practice outcomes; and that these activities should be funded by a compulsory customs charge.

The Government concurs with this view and believes that the livestock export industry should also receive funding raised under the new statutory arrangements to help maintain its capability and continued viability.

The Government supports the livestock export industry submission that channelling the funds directly to its service delivery body would enable the industry to carry out marketing and R&D activities and improvements to animal welfare practices in a clearly accountable and transparent manner.

However, the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997 currently limits the red meat industry to a single industry marketing body and a single industry research body as the recipient of levy or charge funds. Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd is currently that body. This arrangement does not allow disbursement of compulsory levies or charges to any other body.

The bill amends the Act to allow the Minister to determine more than one red meat industry organisation to be a marketing body and a research body and to receive revenue derived from compulsory levies and charges. This will allow for a livestock export marketing body and a livestock export research body.

The intention of the Act, whereby Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd (MLA) is the industry research body and the industry marketing body for the whole of the red meat industry, remains.

The Government will continue its dollar for dollar matching of payments to the industry research body, that is, to MLA, in respect of industry research expenditure. As was envisaged by the Government under the restructuring arrangements introduced in 1998, this will preserve the incentive for the provision of research services to be provided by the industry research body, while allowing for the live export industry sector to have ownership and control over its own R&D funds.

The bill was first introduced to Parliament last June and was referred to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee in August. The Committee recommended the bill be amended to tighten the accountability arrangements for the livestock export industry.

As recommended by the Committee the bill now includes a statutory requirement for the Minister to table in Parliament the livestock export service company's annual report, the funding agreement between the Commonwealth and the company and an annual statement of the company's compliance with the funding agreement.

The bill also includes amendments relating to the definition of “meat”, “live-stock” and “edible offal” to avoid the unintended regulation of meat and edible offal as a result of the broader range of live-stock species being regulated following the Keniry Review into Live-stock Exports.

The bill does not change the Act's broader intentions of viewing the red meat industry as one industry while providing for autonomy and self-determination for the sectors within and for revenue disbursement arrangements.

Rather it responds to the specific needs of the livestock export industry and the criticisms and concerns about the continued viability of the industry.

The bill is aligned with other sets of amendments to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997 and the Export Control Act 1982, which relate to licensing issues that will introduce tighter regulation across all aspects of the livestock export trade.

Together these amendments represent an important step in the Government's reform of the livestock export industry. They are part of a range of initiatives aimed at overcoming current deficiencies and facilitating improvements in the livestock export system and animal welfare practices.

Ordered that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour.