Monday, 26 May 2014
Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Removing Re-approval and Re-registration) Bill 2014; Second Reading
I rise to speak in favour of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Removing Re-Approval and Re-Registration) Bill 2014. This bill is critical for agriculture in Australia. There are 11,700 medicines that are used in agriculture to control pests and disease. These chemicals and medicines protect crops and animals, allowing them to grow to their full potential. It also facilitates health in our pets and our gardens—and indirectly, and sometimes directly, us, because some of these chemicals and veterinary products run parallel in the medical industry.
Could you imagine the loss to our food and crop production if the regulatory burden in the current legislation suffocated the use of these chemicals which have already been registered and analysed to the nth degree and declared to be safe? It would be devastating. CropLife estimates that 68 per cent of the crop production in this country depends on these approved chemicals to control the pests that could ravage a crop of wheat or maize, chickpeas—you name it. If we do not have the ability to control pests and disease, our broadacre cropping could be devastated, yields could drop exponentially. That is a possibility; re-registration every year could mean that some of these chemicals would have to go through the whole process again. In the beef and dairy industry, control of parasites would be very difficult, because most of the parasite control is with pour-on chemicals and drenches which will all go through this registration process.
We had an election commitment. We committed to the Australian public that we would reduce red tape—and, if there was ever a case of red tape, it is the current registration. By these sensible amendments, we will prevent the automatic expiration of active constituent approvals and remove the need to continually reapprove and re-register these active constituents on an annual basis, to a much more reasonable seven years.
Chemical product quality is still protected with these amendments. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority can request analysis to ensure the chemicals in these products are exactly what they say they are. It still controls the packaging, the advertising and the labelling and ensures that it is all accurate. These amendments allow variations to be done at the discretion of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. It allows product registration details and information that is held with the authority to be provided to those that have the appropriate access to the intellectual property, and allows the owners of the intellectual property to know the details of the status of their registration. There is a cost-recovery mechanism involved in this, to be paid by the recipient of the information.
I would like to make an analogy to the New South Wales driver's licence. They recently extended registration for safe drivers to up to 10 years. If you are a safe driver and you are not breaking the road rules or are involved in accidents and you have demonstrated that you are a good, safe driver, they will give you credit and you only have to renew your licence every 10 years. Under the current legislation, having to renew these many chemicals every time their registration renewal falls due would suffocate the industry. It would suffocate the industry that depends on them for their wellbeing. They still have to be analysed, tested and proved to be safe, but, I hasten to say, the potentially malevolent red tape is removed by these amendments. We will still have quality and still have oversight of a very effective authority, the chemicals will be safe for the recipients—namely, the crops and the animals—the humans who come into contact will get all the information that they need and our agricultural sector will continue to flourish.
I would hate to think of the devastation that would occur if these products that have been around for years and years and have been through numerous analyses and registrations dropped off and had to go through the whole re-registration process, which is a costly and time-consuming procedure. Can you imagine the cost of the chemicals? The chemical companies would have to pay an awful lot of money to go through that process if they were ever to fall off the register. I would not like to be a chemical company supporting our agriculture under the current legislation.
As I drive around the area of the Manning, where we have a quarter of the state's milk supply being produced, I try to imagine the implications if they were not able to drench the animals and control parasites. The milk production would drop off. It would be the same in the beef industry. You only have to look at an animal that has not been drenched and see the growth in those compared to those that have been looked after by their owners. Applications in the aquaculture industry in the Gloucester Valley do not need many chemicals but those they do need are simple and proven to be safe. Imagine if they had dropped off the register and the company could not afford to go through the extensive re-registration process. Around my electorate, we have an agricultural industry that is vibrant but it is under tremendous cost pressures. To have to go through the re-registration process for all the chemicals that foster and encourage the growth of their products would, for many, be the final straw that breaks the camel's back.
I commend these amendments to the House. They are safe and they are sensible. There will still be good oversight by the authority. All the information will be accessible—assuming that there are no intellectual property issues. The registration will be clear and transparent. Simple amendments can be put through by the authority in limited circumstances. So the Australian public and the agricultural and cropping industries should be reassured that there is due oversight of this important part of their business. I commend the legislative amendments to the House.