Monday, 26 May 2014
Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Removing Re-approval and Re-registration) Bill 2014; Second Reading
It is a pleasure to rise in the House tonight following the member for Macquarie. Can I commend the member for Macquarie for the excellent job she just did in explaining this important amendment bill and explaining what the government is doing for Australian farmers. This bill is fairly dry in its context but it is very important in what it sets out to do. It sets out to ease the regulatory burden on Australian farmers. It is incredibly important to my electorate and to regional and rural Australia.
I will take the time for a minute just to explain the importance of agriculture in my electorate of Wannon. It produces more wool than any other region across Australia. It produces more dairy products than any other region across Australia—more mutton, more lamb. It is a region that is at the heart of Australia's agricultural production and it is why I proudly stand here today to support this bill before us. Because anything we can do which makes our farmers more efficient, more effective, more productive and, most importantly, more profitable, is not only good the electorate of Wannon but it is also good for Australia as a whole.
As you know Deputy Speaker Vasta, agriculture is still one of our key exports and provides much-needed income for our nation. This bill falls into two categories. One is that it is about the government's agenda to reduce red tape—and I will get to that—but it is also about what the government is setting out to do to support our agricultural industry. As we have seen through the election commitments that we have made, this government is very serious about making sure that our agricultural sector is one of the key sectors which will drive the growth that this economy needs into the future—to produce the jobs that we needed, to produce the income that we need to make sure that the nation continues to grow, continues to generate employment and continues to be able to make this country so great. It is a pleasure that that is what this government has set out to do and it is a pleasure to commend this bill which goes a little way in helping in that regard.
The government also took to the last election a real commitment to cut red tape. We have already had the first repeal day, where we saw the first instalment of us moving to cut red tape. This bill adds to that. What we have here for our farmers is a cutting of red tape which will lead to those farmers being $9 million annually better off as a result of this red tape reduction. We should not underestimate that, because little by little by little by little, if we can continue to cut the red tape obligations that we are placing on Australian business our economy will be all the better for it. That is what this bill does. I am hoping and looking forward to seeing from the Minister for Agriculture more bills like this which will cut the red tape burden for our agricultural producers, because farmers, like small businesses in many other sectors, have been pointing out that more and more they are faced with a regulatory burden which just makes it harder and harder for them to get on and do their job.
This bill before us does what needs to be done in this area. Obviously we had the previous government put some legislation through. There was a lack of consultation. The implementation, sadly, was like a lot of implementation which took place in the previous government. We have had to come in and clean up the mess. That is what the amendments in this bill do.
It is worth having a look at what those amendments will do. The first, as I have explained, will mean that we reduce red tape by providing for far less frequent registration renewals in this agricultural and veterinary chemicals area. By lessening the registration renewals, obviously that helps the businesses involved in this and helps them and enables them to be able to pass on savings. It will also enable the APVMA to better secure information about the safety of chemicals supplied in the market. Being able to secure that information will help the APVMA be able to do their job. It introduces further simple reforms to agvet chemicals regulation to reduce red tape and improve efficiency. It obliges the APVMA to provide access to information about approvals and registration in its files to persons eligible to receive it and addresses some minor implementation issues identified in existing reform legislation.
That is what in the broader context the bill sets out to do. Specifically it honours the election commitment that the coalition took to the last election. It is worth noting here how the coalition has set about trying to ensure that all the commitments that it took to the last election are honoured. This is just another example of that—of our commitment to make sure everything we took to the last election we are going to implement and we are going to roll out.
It is just bit by bit that we will be able to prove to the Australian people our determination to make sure that those commitments are rolled out. This is a small part of that, granted, but it is an important part, because the Australian people bit by bit will see that we are sincere and we are honest with what we are presenting to them—what we presented to them before the election and what we are rolling out now. We introduced the reapproval of active constituents and re-registration of chemical products by amending the agvet code, the schedule to the code act. Registration requires periodic examination every seven to 15 years of active constituents and products. Without changes to the agvet code, re-registration will come into force on 1 July 2014.
While the government is committed to removing re-registration, it will retain the existing comprehensive powers of the APVMA and will ensure any newly identified risks about the safety, efficacy or trade impact of a chemical are examined. So rather than just mandating every seven to 15 years a regular commitment that the APVMA has to act, we are saying, 'Let us use some common sense.' If there are some reasons or some needs then, sure, the APVMA has the power to look into re-registration and to act. But why should we require the APVMA to do that just for the sake of it? Why would you do that, especially when you know the regulatory toll that that would have? We are putting forward a sensible amendment here. Once again, it is an amendment which means that $9 million in the regulatory burden on Australian farmers is eased.
This bill also looks at the concerns with chemical product quality. Removing re-registration removes an opportunity for the APVMA to confirm that chemical products supplied to the market are the same as the product evaluated and registered by the APVMA. This can be addressed in part by approving the APVMA to require a person who supplies an agvet chemical product in Australia to provide information, for example, a chemical analysis, about the product they are supplying. Once again, we are seeing good common-sense legislation here and this will make a difference on the ground.
We are reducing red tape in other ways such as by allowing for simpler variations to approvals and registrations. The previous section 26A in division 2A of part 2 of the agvet code allowed for the applications to be made for variations to certain particulars of an approval or registration. The particulars that could be varied under this section were to be set out in a legislative instrument of the APVMA. The section was intended to streamline applications for simple variations to an approval or registration. The bill amends division 2A of part 2 and inserts a new division, 2AA, to improve the effectiveness of the agvet code and increase efficiency in dealing with these simple variations of approvals and registrations. So once again, we are seeing some very common-sense law-making here. I could go further into the detail of that but, in very simple terms, it just means it cuts down on the regulatory burden of those administering this act and enables them to use common sense in dealing with these issues.
One of the best things about this process was that the coalition took this commitment to the Australian people in the lead up to the election. The reforms have also been informed by extensive stakeholder consultation. I know that you, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, are very aware of the importance of this aspect of law-making. One of the great tragedies of the last six years was that the previous government did not seem have any idea of what proper stakeholder consultation was about. We saw some tragedies as a result of that in the way that legislation was made and implemented and, sadly, we have a royal commission looking into one such program.
The government took a commitment to the last election. We then said we were going to honour that commitment. Just because we said we were going to honour that commitment did not mean that we would then just rush that through. No, we took our commitment and we then consulted widely with the sector. The sector said, 'Maybe you could make this change here or this change here. This is how you could ease the regulatory burden.' Through that proper consultation, we have been able to come up with the amendment, which will save $9 million to the Australian agriculture sector. Once again, this is very good, sensible law-making.
I commend the Minister for Agriculture for the process he took in going about and putting forward these amendments. I also thank the parliamentary secretary who has been in charge of deregulation. Obviously the consultation he did on a portfolio-by-portfolio basis led to these types of issues being identified and these regulatory-easing pieces of legislation coming before us.
In summing up, this is an important bill because it deals with an important sector of our economy, the agricultural sector. It is a sector which creates jobs and it is also a sector which creates income for the nation. So it is a sector that this government takes extremely seriously and is a key policy area to continue to develop. We have seen that, for instance, with the way we are opening new markets for our agriculture sector. It is also a bill which deals with easing the regulatory burden on Australian business—small business, large business, farm sector, retail sector, financial sector. You name it, we are easing the financial burden, especially the regulatory financial burden. This is what this bill does, and it does so to the extent that our farmers will have $9 million less red tape around their neck, and that is important for that sector.
The bill also goes to show that this government is serious about honouring its election commitments. It took commitments to the last election and it is now going through the process of acting on them. An important part of the process of governing is to make sure that not only do you take commitments but then you legislate and you ensure that the implementation is delivered in sensible manner, in a way that people on the ground will see and feel the difference and that is what this bill does here tonight.