Government agvet reforms not stronger, not smarter, not fairer

    16 May 2013

    Thursday 16 May 2013 (Canberra) – With the passage of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment Bill through the House of Representatives yesterday, Australian farmers once again stand to bear the burden of bad and costly regulation.

    “This is a bill that, under the guise of efficiency reform, adds 287 new pages of regulation to the rule book for an already inefficient and costly regulatory system,” Matthew Cossey, CEO of CropLife Australia said today.

    “This bill will increase the regulatory burden for agricultural chemical products, resulting in fewer, more expensive products for farmers, and less incentive to bring newer technologies to the Australian market. Despite this increased regulation, the Bill will not deliver any improved safety or environmental outcomes.

    “It seems ironic at a time when the Federal Government is seeking to develop and implement a National Food Plan, take advantage of the opportunities of the Asian Century and make Australian agriculture more productive and competitive that it would seek to legislate in a manner that only undermines the farming sector.

    “You would have to seriously question how, irrespective of party status, any Member of Parliament who purports to represent rural and regional interests could have supported this bill in its current form.

    “The most disappointing part of this process is that there are some good components to this legislative reform package. The package contains some necessary reforms; it is just a real shame that the government allowed it to be derailed to such an extent that its implementation will deliver a serious net negative for regulatory efficiency and only deliver costs and bureaucratic burden for the agricultural industry.

    “There has been significant consultation on these reforms over the last three years; however that consultation has not led to the Federal Government addressing the real problems of a complex and inefficient agricultural chemical regulatory system. They seem to have chosen to completely ignore the concerns of farmers and industries across the entire agriculture sector.

    “It was heartening to see the Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food, the Hon. John Cobb, and members of the coalition being guided in the debate yesterday by the overwhelming evidence against the Bill in its current form and advocating on behalf of Australia’s farming sector.

    “When it comes to voting on this bill, I would now urge Senators to consider that we are currently trying to increase food and fibre production and improve our agricultural trading competitiveness so this bill should be rejected. As the states’ house, the Senate might like to note that not one state farmer organisation has come out in support of the Bill in its current form.

    “Effective reform could encourage investment and innovation in the plant science sector and give Australian farmers access to the latest crop protection technologies. However, the Bill in its current form will only increase regulatory burdens and will impose significant new costs on agriculture in Australia.

    “If this bill passes the Senate, the consequences for Australian agriculture will be significant and far-reaching. I urge Senators to look at the big picture, to weigh up the evidence and decline to sacrifice Australian farmers, and our agriculture and food production sectors, for the sake of a bill that delivers zero environmental or public health benefit,” concluded Mr Cossey.