Labor Senators support the majority of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority Board and Other Improvements) Bill 2019 [Provisions], however, hold deep concerns about the policy rationale for the implementation of a Governance Board for a number of reasons.
The APVMA Governance Board will not have the power to independently set the APVMA’s "strategic direction, drive its operational performance, set an appropriate risk management framework and ensure greater accountability". Under the proposed legislation the Minister will continue to have the power to direct the APVMA and "will be provided with the power to direct the board in the performance of its functions." Therefore, it appears the Governance Board will just be another layer of regulation which will add additional cost to Australian farmers.
The former Agriculture Minister, the Member for New England’s, hand-picked CEO, Dr Chris Parker, has questions to answer as to why the APVMA’s recent performance and financial difficulties – which according to the Agriculture Departmental Officials are separate from the pressures caused by relocation – have occurred. The APVMA CEO must be held to account as to what actions he has taken that led to the recent financial difficulties. The implementation of a Governance Board should not be used as an opportunity to let the current CEO off the hook, if Dr Parker has failed at his responsibilities then the current Minister for Agriculture must reconsider his position.
Labor shares the same concerns held by Grains Producers Australia that:
The costs of the Board are estimated to be $600,000 for the first year and these costs will be passed onto Australian farmers who are currently facing severe cost pressures from the ongoing challenges of the drought.
Both CropLife and the Australian Medicines Australia (AMA) (the peak bodies representing the industries regulated by the APVMA) have clearly indicated that they do not support the implementation of a Governance Board. CropLife continues to have concerns that the Governance Board will be a direct additional cost to the farming sector and that Australia is already one of the world’s most expensive agricultural chemical regulators. The AMA provided a compelling case that there is no clear policy rationale as to the benefits the industry, farming sector and broader community would accrue from implementing a Governance Board.
Finally, the Morrison Government is currently undertaking a 'first principles' review of the Agvet Code, and the intergovernmental agreement that established the national registration system for agriculture chemicals. Labor supports the premise that implementing a Governance Board at this time pre-empts the findings of the Agvet Code review.
Labor urges the Morrison Government to reconsider the implementation of the Governance Board and to remove Schedule 2 of the Bill until the concerns identified by stakeholders are addressed.