The Labor Government had failed the export food industry following the axing of the 40 percent AQIS export service inspection rebate worth $40 million annually, according to Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, John Cobb.
“In 2009, the Senate disallowed moves by the Rudd Government to axe the AQIS Export Certification rebate,” Mr Cobb said in a press release issued this afternoon.
“The Coalition came to an agreement with the former Minister for Agriculture, Tony Burke. In exchange for an agreement to remove the 40pc AQIS export service rebate with an eventual move to full cost recovery, Mr Burke offered industry a $127.4 million package to fund efficiency reforms,” Mr Cobb said.
“Mr Burke claimed that his Export Certification Reform Package would make reform of the AQIS Export Certification program a main priority. In addition, he also committed to a study by an independent authority that would examine the legitimate cost to Government of inspections.”
The press release quoted a passage from a letter of agreement signed by Minister Burke, which stated:
“Successful implementation of these reforms will provide a reduction in annual regulatory costs to the export industries in the order of $30 million per year from 1 July 2011. It will also provide the opportunity for removal of substantial costs from the export supply chain for industry and AQIS.”
There was very little evidence to prove that the efficiency reforms Mr Burke promised had eventuated, Mr Cobb said. Nor had there been any action or outcomes from the study.
“The Government has failed its side of the bargain miserably,” he said.
“Australia’s export industries should not be left in the lurch. The rebates are crucial to many export sectors, particularly at a time when the high Australian dollar is severely hurting the hip pockets of Australian farmers.”
“Many of these export industries such as beef, grain, dairy and horticulture are low margin businesses and if the rebate is removed without any of the promised efficiencies exporters will have no choice but to pass these costs onto producers.”
In 2008 Labor’s Beale Review into Australia’s Quarantine and Biosecurity systems found Australia’s border defences were significantly under-resourced, putting Australia’s economy, people and environment at significant risk, the press release said.
Despite this the only one of 80 recommendations to be implemented was to cut funding for AQIS inspections.
“The Government must show that these reforms to the industry have been implemented and efficiencies achieved,” Mr Cobb said.
“If the Government has dragged its feet and failed to implement the reforms it promised then the rebates must be retained until these reforms have been delivered,” he said.
News of the Federal Government’s backdown over partial financing of AQIS operations was broken on Beef Central yesterday morning.