House debates

Monday, 26 May 2014

Bills

Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Removing Re-approval and Re-registration) Bill 2014; Second Reading

7:56 pm

Photo of Fiona ScottFiona Scott (Lindsay, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Removing Re-approval and Re-registration) Bill 2014. Lindsay is a region steeped in the history of agriculture. Our region is bookended by the five Macquarie towns and John Macarthur's sheep, and home to many pioneer farmers just like Sir John Jamison. Today the Lindsay electorate is home to poultry barns and hobby farms, turf farms and thoroughbred studs, cattle and orchards. Our fertile soils on the banks of the Nepean have long been a wonderful food bowl.

Just last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Sylvan Australia and Regal Mushrooms, both in Londonderry, in the northern part of the Lindsay electorate. These two wonderful organisations produce approximately 20 per cent of Australia's mushroom supply, and their facilities are incredibly impressive. As such, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the commitments made by this government to the agricultural sector across Australia.

In the 2014-15 federal budget, the Abbott government confirmed a raft of measures to support this important sector, including $104 million for a competitive grants program to deliver cutting-edge technology and applied research with an emphasis on making the results accessible to farmers. There is $20 million over four years for a stronger biodiversity and quarantine system that will enable early response to import and export related biosecurity issues, strengthen systems and capabilities to contain biosecurity incursions and focus on improvements to the import risk analysis process. There is $15 million over four years to support small exporters with export costs to help them remain competitive and profitable in the international marketplace. There is $9 million for fisheries projects, including support for OceanWatch, and more support for coordinated representation of recreational fishers and for undertaking invasive marine pest reviews. Finally, there is $8 million over four years to improve access and registration of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, which brings us to the legislation today.

Australia currently has around 11,700 separate agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines, known as agvet chemicals. These are registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. Moving away from the scientific complexities of the industry, the chemicals accessed by farming and veterinary industries serve a number of extremely important roles, which is why the streamlining of this industry and reducing red tape are important

Agvet chemicals do the following: firstly, they protect crops and animals from pests and diseases and so help improve productivity and competitiveness of Australia's rural industries; secondly, they ensure the quality and safety of food production while protecting human and animal health and environment; thirdly, they are an essential tool in managing weeds, vital to keep our pets healthy and a necessary part of our indoor and outdoor lifestyle; and, finally, the agvet chemicals industry is a vital quality food and fibre production.

Clearly, this is an industry which indirectly affects every Australian family. These amendments build on previous measures to improve efficiency, effectiveness and safety and they deliver on the coalition election commitment to remove the re-approval and re-registration scheme and introduce further efficiencies with regard to the regulation of agvet chemicals. Further, these reforms build on the coalition's deregulation agenda and aims to reduce red tape for farmers and encourage the development of new chemistry with a range of benefits for all users as well as the environment and the broader community.

To date, a hallmark of the Abbott government has been its decisive action to get out of the way of business and let them get on with the job. These amendments build on this in the following ways. They introduce new processes for chemical registration specifically for less complex variations. If a company wants to change pack size or the company address on the label, they will not have to have a technical assessment and lodge an application that would normally cost around $1,000.

I will just pause there for a moment. As someone who comes to this place as a former marketer, I did a project with the Yates business and, happened to see firsthand that when you are bringing new products to market in different pack sizes or with other changes, this will actually be a huge efficiency that is really going to help the market and the industry and so many other companies that produce agricultural chemicals. For simple changes, they can just inform the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority of the change.

Secondly, this amendment allows the government to extend by regulation the period of renewal for up to seven years. The renewal is simply an administrative process to extend the registration and has no checks for safety and performance. It is worth noting that the authority already has a strong established system to trigger and review if potential risks to safety and performance have been identified. A review may be initiated when new research or evidence has raised concerns about the safe use of a particular chemical or product. It will rewrite provisions which allow the authority to collect information from suppliers of chemicals to make sure products being supplied are the same as those the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority have registered.

Finally, it will fix the food problem for the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand Act to allow the authority to amend the maximum residue limits standard. Without the change, companies will be able to register products or seek permits to use product that producers may not be able to supply—sorry, it is great having the flu in this place—

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