Govt says reforms destroyed for food exporters

The Nationals and Liberals have voted to strip $103 million from the nation’s biosecurity budget over the next two years.

This, the Minister for Agriculture Tony Burke, says will seriously jeopardise Australia’s defences against pests and diseases.

Mr Burke said the Nationals and Liberals had betrayed Australia’s farmers by blocking a new set of fees and charges for export certification in the Senate.

The move will also block $60 million in planned reforms to improve efficiency, cut red tape, modernise IT systems and improve export market access.

It will cost the nation’s biosecurity budget $103 million, but farmers could pay a bigger price in the event of an exotic disease outbreak.

“Australia’s biosecurity defences protect us from exotic pests and diseases which can have a devastating impact on business owners,” Mr Burke said.

“Now this offensive move by the Nationals and Liberals will force Australia’s biosecurity budget to shrink to levels which are lower than ever.

“Only months ago, John Cobb stated in a media release that to cut money from biosecurity is ‘criminal’.

“In the same week that the Leader of the Opposition has wanted to claim the Coalition is capable of economic reform, they have destroyed these reforms for our exporters.

Mr Burke said that instead of implementing industry plans for reform, exporters will be lumbered with continued inefficiencies which stifle Australia’s global competitiveness.

“The reason for wanting to drive efficiencies for our exporters is simple: it means jobs for regional Australia.

The reform program had the support of the six export sectors: red meat, grain, horticulture, live exports, fish and dairy.

Examples of the reforms which were being sought by industry include: new regulatory arrangements which would allow audits to be carried out remotely, by accessing a company’s data electronically.

Under the current system, an auditor could be required to drive to the company site to access company systems.

The new remote system would save time and money; increasing the use of electronic processing, rather than inefficient paperwork.

Under the reforms, more than 89% of the 330,000 clearance certificates to be issued next financial year would be done electronically; Grains could be cleared for export much earlier in the process.

Previously they were cleared at the last minute, which meant exporters had to pay demurrage costs if the loading of a vessel was delayed due to clearance issues.

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