Referral of inquiry
On 12 June 2020, the Senate referred the provisions of the Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Amendment (Dairy Cattle Export Charge) Bill 2020 (the bill) to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report by 30 July 2020.
The proposal to refer the bill to the committee suggested a number of issues for consideration as part of the inquiry, including:
to investigate the effectiveness of the bill with regards to funding the Dairy Cattle Export Program; and
investigate including breeder cattle into the Export Assurance Supply Chain System (ESCAS).
Conduct of the inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry on its webpage, calling for submissions by 30 June 2020. The committee also wrote to a range of key stakeholder groups and organisations, drawing their attention to the inquiry and inviting them to make written submissions.
The committee received six submissions, which are listed at Appendix 1. Submissions were published on the committee's inquiry webpage.
The committee completed its inquiry on the basis of these submissions, and on other publicly available information regarding the bill and its provisions, including the bill's Explanatory Memorandum (EM).
The committee thanks those organisations which provided written submissions to the inquiry. This work has informed the committee's deliberations.
Structure of the report
The report consists of two chapters. Chapter 1 provides information about the inquiry and the purpose of the bill. The second chapter presents the key issues raised by submitters, and the committee's views and recommendation.
Purpose of the bill
The bill would amend the Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Act 1999 (the Act) to impose an export charge on the export of dairy cattle, which are currently exempt from duties of customs collected on the export of other types of cattle. The bill would also amend the rate provisions in the Act to provide for two different rates of charges: a per head charge on dairy cattle and a per kilogram charge on cattle other than dairy cattle. These customs charges are used to fund research and development, and marketing activities.
A voluntary charge has been in place since 2006 with proceeds funding research and development ‘focusing on animal health and welfare; supply chain efficiency and regulatory performance; and market access for dairy cattle exports’. However, the voluntary nature of the charge has reportedly resulted in ‘under-collection’ of funds, eventually leading the industry to abandon the voluntary program and seek a statutory charge.
The peak industry body, Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, conducted stakeholder consultations in 2017. The consultations found that a majority of industry participants were in favour of a non-voluntary, statutory charge to support research and development, animal welfare and marketing activities for the sector.
In developing the bill, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment consulted with other Commonwealth agencies, including the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Finance.
Consideration by other committees
The bill was considered by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills in June 2020. The committee expressed concern that the bill did not set a ‘maximum charge’ per head of cattle in the primary legislation. The committee requested the minister's advice in relation to ‘whether a maximum rate of charge that may be imposed on the export of dairy cattle can be included on the face of the bill’. At the time of tabling this report the Ministerial response had not been received.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights considered the bill in its 6th Report of 2020, and stated that the committee had ‘no comment’ on the bill from a human rights perspective.