Government’s new policy platform undermined by agvetchem legislation

    28 June 2013

    Friday 28 June 2013 (Canberra) – With the passage of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment Bill through the Senate today, Australian farmers once again stand to bear the burden of ineffective and costly regulation.

    The Bill passed today highlights an alarming cognitive dissonance with this government’s policy platform. It’s a little ironic that less than 48 hours after the new Prime Minister announced his intention to diversify the Australian economy, to increase agricultural productivity and engage closely with business, his government passes legislation that will hamstring Australia’s farming and food production sectors,” CropLife Australia CEO, Matthew Cossey said this afternoon.

    “There are a number of positive reforms included in the Bill, but the good components are completely outweighed by 287 new pages of misguided and poorly targeted extra regulation. The result will be a less efficient, less responsive regulator that is not equipped to meet its mandate. A less responsive regulator is a problem for the environment, as well as for productivity.

    “The Bill represents nothing more than an unnecessary extra burden on the Australian farming sector.  It was opposed across the board by farmer organisations and the plant science industry, and even the government’s independent Grains Research and Development Corporation noted its concern.

    “As it stands, this legislation will simply result in three things: the loss to the farming sector of access to a range of entirely safe agchem products; the newest innovative, softer chemicals not being brought to the Australian market; and those limited products that remain becoming more expensive. This will have a dramatic impact on Australian agriculture’s competitiveness on international markets.

    “The original, commendable intention of this legislative reform was to increase the efficiency of a regulator that was failing to meet its statutory targets. The legislation in its current form falls a long way short of delivering on that intention. The government should be commended for its genuine effort of engagement and consultation during the development of the Bill but it is extremely disappointing that the end result will not deliver either efficiency or improvements to safety or environmental outcomes.

    “We commend the Hon John Cobb MP in his efforts to improve the Bill with smart, well considered amendments. It was also heartening to see the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, being guided in his speech to the Senate today by the overwhelming evidence against the Bill and advocating on behalf of Australia’s farming sector. Australia’s plant science industry is looking forward to the Coalition remaining true to its policy position on improving the flaws inherent in this legislation and delivering an efficient system, for the sake of Australian agriculture and the environment.

    “Equally, we look forward to the government fulfilling its commitment to deliver efficiencies in other areas of the regulatory system now that its legislative framework has been passed. If these commitments are not honoured the result will be fewer, more expensive products for farmers, and less incentive for businesses to bring newer technologies to the Australian market.

    “The plant science industry calls on both sides of politics to look seriously at the ramifications for Australia’s agriculture and food production sectors of losing access to essential inputs. It is vital that the reality of the significant cost burden of this legislation on industry is acknowledged and both sides of politics commit to specific transition measures that will reduce the cost burden of the new system. Without such measures, the cost of food production will inevitably increase, imposing extra unnecessary costs on farmers, not to mention consumers.

    “CropLife has worked constructively with all parties over the past three years of the reform process and there are elements of the legislation that are positive and vastly improved from the original proposal, which only increases the disappointment that the final package is not a net positive. CropLife remains committed to working with all sides of politics to improve the regulatory system and provide better outcomes for Australian farmers and for the protection of human health and the environment,” concluded Mr Cossey.

    Contact: Jessica Lee (Manager – Public Affairs)  Ph: 02 6230 6399  Mob: 0410 491 261