Bills Digest 154 1996-97 National Residue Survey (Ratite Slaughter) Levy Bill 1997

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This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.


Passage History

National Residue Survey (Ratite Slaughter) Levy Bill 1997

Date Introduced: 26 March 1997
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Primary Industries and Energy
Commencement: 1 July 1997


To impose a levy on the slaughter at an abattoir of emu, cassowary, kiwi, rhea and ostrich (ratites) at an abattoir intended for human consumption. Levy proceeds will go towards the monitoring and assessment of chemical residues in ratites.


Emu Industry

The major effect of the Bill is to impose an operative levy of 75 cents per head on the slaughter at an abattoir of emus intended for human consumption.

The emu is a native flightless bird. Emus grow to a maximum height of 2 metres and 50 kilograms in weight. Emu farming was pioneered by the Ngangganawili Aboriginal people in Western Australia in 1976 using stock taken from the wild. Wild emus are not used commercially in Australia.

Western Australia has the largest number of birds in production, an estimated total of 25,000 across 55 properties. Industry estimates for 1995 report that 155,000 birds from Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania were processed.(1)

Emu products include meat, skins and oil. Emu meat is low in fat and cholesterol (0.05% cholesterol) and is sold to the restaurant trade as a low fat gourmet food. Emus can also be rendered to produce an oil, which is used in cosmetics, as an anti-inflammatory, and treatment for muscle and joint pain. Raw emu oil has been sold in bulk at prices of approximately $14.50 per litre.(2)

Tanned emu skin is used in a variety of products, including fashion clothing, watch bands, wallets and other accessory goods.

While the rural press has reported extensively on the successes and failures of the Australian ostrich industry, only recently has the emu industry attracted attention. For example, it is reported in the January 1996 edition of the Australian Farm Journal that the President of the Emu Farmers Federation of Australia, Burditt Krost, said:

[T]he industry's biggest problems is its lack of processing infrastructure, particularly in the eastern states. ... total world emu meat, oil and leather production is now so tiny - 200 tonnes of meat, about 80,000 litres of oil and enough leather to make 4200 men's jackets from the slaughter of about 20,000 birds - that marketing shouldn't pose a major problem. Although the US has many more emu farms than Australia (6000 compared with 1297), the birds are still too expensive to slaughter. So Australia is likely to have a free hand on world markets for about another seven years.

It is reported in The Land of 5 September 1996 that a proposed $4 million emu abattoir, which includes a tannery and rendering plant, at Cobar in New South Wales, has been approved by the State government. The abattoir will be the first emu abattoir in New South Wales and will process 400 birds a day, with meat, skin and oil exported.

While the above reports forecast an optimistic future for the industry, it needs to be acknowledged that there is no shortage of commentators who view the future of the industry with a degree of scepticism. For example, it is reported in The Sydney Morning Herald of 20 November 1996 that the Director of the New South Wales Farmer's Association said:

[I]f the end product has no sustainable market, "the investment excitement only lasts for the initial breeding stages".

In the same article, it is reported:

NSW Farmers has warned investors "to look at the end product market, and not at the short-term profit from selling breeding stock". The ostrich industry is a case in point. From a market high of about $6,000 for three month old chicks 12 months ago, commercial reality has hit home, with the same birds now worth only $200, say the Australian Ostrich Association, agents and breeders.

National Residue Survey

The National Residue Survey (NRS) monitors residues of agricultural and veterinary chemicals in raw agricultural produce in order to meet national and international requirements (eg. Since 1985 a national residue monitoring program and certification has been a mandatory requirement for nations exporting meat and poultry products to the United States).

Funds for the NRS are provided from five sources:

  • levies paid by participating industries along with any associated income earned from short-term investment of funds held in reserve;
  • funding appropriated by government for NRS government business activities;
  • direct contributions;
  • interest earned on short term investments; and
  • payments for proficiency testing, sale of services or prepared materials, and from fees charged for the supply of information.(3)

Main Provisions

The term 'ratite' is defined by clause 4 to mean an emu, ostrich, cassowary, kiwi or rhea.

A levy, the National Residue Survey Levy, is imposed on the slaughter at an abattoir of ratites intended for human consumption by clause 5.

Clause 6 deals with the rate of levy for ratites. The operative rate of levy imposed in respect to emus is 75 cents per head or a prescribed amount not exceeding $5.00 per head. The rates of levy in respect of other ratites is a prescribed amount not exceeding $5.00 per head.

The levy is payable by the person who owns the ratites when they are slaughtered (clause 7).


  1. Diverse Farming, March 1997: 29.
  2. Australian Farmers Federation, Australian Agriculture, 5th ed, 1995: 169.
  3. National Residue Survey, Annual Report 1995 96: 10.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Ian Ireland
17 June 1997
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1997

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1997.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 9 July 1997

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