This chapter contains the key issues discussed during the 2013-14 Additional
Estimates hearings for the Infrastructure and Regional Development portfolio
and the Agriculture Portfolio.
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
The committee heard evidence from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional
Development (the department) on Monday, 24 February 2014. The hearing was
conducted in the following order:
Australian Rail Track Corporation;
Civil Aviation Safety Authority;
Australian Transport Safety Bureau;
Aviation and Airports;
National Capital Authority;
Office of Transport Security;
Australian Maritime Safety Authority;
Policy and Research;
Local Government and Territories; and
Surface Transport Policy.
The committee discussed whether the government had set a regulatory
performance target for the department, and was advised that an indicative
saving of $60 million per annum had been allocated to the portfolio. In
response to questions about how performance will be measured against the
target, Mr Mrdak, Departmental Secretary, advised the committee that he would
look at performance arrangements in the department as necessary but ultimately
performance requirements rest with the Secretary.
The committee discussed work the department had undertaken since September
2013 to reduce regulation, and was advised by Mr Mrdak that a senior officer in
the department had been charged with responsibility for deregulation in the
department. He also advised that a team had been established within the policy
group to identify areas for action to reduce regulatory burden.
Infrastructure Investment and Infrastructure Australia
In continuation of discussion from previous estimates hearings, the
committee sought an update on the following infrastructure projects:
East-West road project;
West Connex project; and
Peninsula Development Road.
The committee discussed funding for road projects and the government's
proposed investment program across state and territories. The committee heard
that the government had made commitments to fund 80 per cent of projects in the
forward program, relating to two major highways – the Bruce Highway and the
Pacific Highway with 80 per cent of funding being derived from the Commonwealth,
and 20 per cent from the states.
Civil Aviation Safety Authority
The committee raised the issue of colour-vision-deficient pilots and the
colour assessment diagnosis test (CAD) developed by the Civil Aviation
Authority (CAA) in the UK. Concerns were raised that, in an environment where
the industry is struggling to attract and retain pilots, the introduction of
the CAD test could see pilots who have been flying safely in Australia for
decades having their privileges withdrawn.
The committee heard that CASA was not aware of any specific cases of
pilots' privileges being withdrawn but acknowledged that there is a standard
for the eyesight test which is applied by the International Civil Aviation
It was also advised that CASA had 'not necessarily committed to using
the test in all cases.'
Australian Transport Safety Bureau
The committee followed up concerns from the references committee report
into the Pel-Air investigation. The committee asked why the ATSB was standing
by their report after Mr Dolan, the Chief Commissioner of ATSB, stated during
the committee inquiry, that he was not proud of the report and would not hold
it as a benchmark.
Mr Dolan explained that the investigation is complete and the report as
published will stand. He clarified that, from a legal perspective, the report
could not be withdrawn, and could only be amended and reopened if new and
significant information came to light.
The committee discussed the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of
Canada's review into the investigation and the parameters in place to ensure
independence of the TSB during the review.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority
The committee sought information from officers regarding AMSA's safety
standards for lifesaving appliances and whether AMSA had conducted inspections
on Customs vessels to ascertain whether they met the relevant standards.
The committee heard that '[for] the vessels we have jurisdiction over,
which are required to have lifesaving appliances on board under the [Safety of
Life at Sea] Convention, we have the responsibility for making sure that they
meet the appropriate standards[.]'
Surface Transport Policy
The committee discussed the possibility of mandating electronic
stability control on new dangerous goods tankers in Australia after two fatal
crashes involving fuel tankers in New South Wales.
Mr Mrdak told the committee that 'we would certainly support an
expedited process of improved stability control, particularly for trailers
carrying petroleum products.'
Department of Agriculture
The committee heard evidence from the Department and agencies of the
Agriculture portfolio on Tuesday 25 February 2014. The hearing was conducted in
the following order:
Finance and Business Support, People and Service Delivery,
Governance, Information Services, Office of the General Counsel;
Australian Wool Innovation Limited;
Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation;
Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation;
Wine Australia Corporation;
Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer;
Live Animal Exports Division;
Meat and Livestock Australia;
Australian Livestock Export Corporation Limited;
Trade and Market Access;
Grains Research and Development Corporation;
Interim Inspector-General of Biosecurity;
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority;
Australian Fisheries Management Authority;
Fisheries Research and Development Corporation;
Food Export Certification;
Post Entry Quarantine Program;
Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and
Agricultural Adaptation and Forestry; and
Sustainable Resource Management.
Finance and Business Support, People and Service Delivery, Governance,
Information Services, Office of the General Counsel
The committee discussed staffing reductions in the biosecurity area. The
department advised that the Border Compliance Division had reduced by 53.6 full
time employees from a total of 2,062 staff over the course of this financial
The department noted that they are in the process of a voluntary redundancy
The committee also heard that, as at the end of January 2014, the
Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON) had cost $25.3 million for system
development and $23.1 million for content, re-engineering, program management
and business reform. The department advised the committee that through the
project, the department will be able to provide concise information on import
requirements into Australia.
Wine Australia Corporation and the Grape and Wine Research Development
The committee discussed with representatives of the Wine Australia
Corporation and the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation their
pending merge into the Australian Grape and Wine Authority
The committee asked witnesses about progress and responsibility for
implementing the National Fruit Fly Strategy (NFFS). The committee heard that
progress on the NFFS appears to have stalled:
The Fruit Fly
Strategy is sitting with Plant Health Australia. There have been efforts to
have an implementation group of governments and industry to oversee it and try
to take charge of the various projects. That implementation group has not met
in recent times—or necessarily been formed.
Noting the committee's concerns regarding recent fruit fly outbreaks in
Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia, the committee was informed
that: 'The responsibility for the on-ground management of fruit fly rests with
the states and with industry.'
Live animal exports and Biosecurity—Animal
The committee discussed with witnesses the live animal export trade. The
committee heard that:
...industry is keen to
reopen trade where [Supply Chain Assurance Scheme]-compliant supply chains can
be established, and there have been discussions across a whole range of
different countries, including Bahrain. The government has made very clear its
intention to do what it can to reopen the trade, to increase the trade, because
of its value to the Australian rural economy.
The committee was informed that in response to the live animal export
suspension there has been an increase in the importation of Australian boxed
chilled and frozen meat to some markets.
The department reported that there were eight Export Supply Chain
Assurance System (ESCAS) investigations underway in Asia, the Middle East and
Africa. These inquiries relate to the treatment of sheep and cattle exported
It was emphasised to the committee that the greatest challenge for
Australian exporters in complying with ESCAS pertained to the treatment of
animals after their arrival at their foreign destination:
The exporters have
contracts with their importers in the other country, and it is up to the
importers and their staff to fulfil the contracts they have made with the
exporter, and the exporter to enforce the conditions or to encourage the
importer to do that. If you think about the number of stock that are sent
overseas and the ability to track all of them, you would see that it is quite
easy for stock to go missing. I think that that is the most difficult part that
exporters have to deal with.
In spite of these challenges, the committee heard that Australian
efforts had significantly improved the standards of animal welfare in export
markets such as Indonesia, where the Australian Livestock Export Corporation
Limited was able to report:
Before 2011 and the
ban, only probably five per cent of cattle were stunned. At the moment, in
2014, we have 80-plus per cent and this is continuing to grow every day. When
you look at it, that is a vast improvement in animal welfare standards in
Indonesia and it is a credit to the Indonesian importers, the abattoirs there,
and the cooperation they have between the exporters in Australia to get that
outstanding job done.
Food Export Certification
The committee heard that the department was working on ways to improve
the legislative requirements for the food export certification. The committee
heard that the cost of registration and establishment a real deterrent to
producers entering the export market.
It was emphasised to the committee by the department that:
We are always looking
to try to find ways in which we can encourage export. The future of Australian
agriculture is through export, given that two-thirds of what we produce is
exported, We have to try to find ways that we can meet the requirements of the
countries that these products are going to in the least cost way so that we are
not discouraging people out of exporting.
Agricultural Adaption and Forestry Division
The committee discussed available funding for Farm Finance and how this
was to be allocated across the jurisdictions. The committee heard that there
was a total of $40 million allocated for 2014–15 and that this funding could be
reallocated to any jurisdiction on a needs basis.
It was emphasised by the Minister at the table that the program was
designed to assist farmers in need and that 'we would take very seriously the
demand that comes through the program in reflecting that need.'
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