Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill 2019

September 10, 2019

I feel a sense of deja vu in speaking on this bill because I did so in 2017. Indeed my speech seems vaguely familiar to me when I read it. This is an omnibus bill that makes amendments to numerous pieces of legislation, some of them are minor and others are of a more significant nature. I would like to just refer to a few in particular that are obviously interesting to me as a regional representative in this Parliament. The Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 will be amended to enable the secretary of the department to recover costs for carrying out certain works. The situation is that while it is possible to recover costs in civil proceedings, this amendment will now extend the capacity of the secretary to recover the costs during the course of criminal proceedings that might be taken against a person for failure to comply with the legislation. So if they have not performed a task that they have been ordered to undertake, the catchment authority may go in and undertake that work and may incur costs in doing so. So wrapped into the one proceeding will be the capacity to not only deal with the criminal aspect but also recover the costs of the work that was undertaken—an eminently sensible amendment I would have thought.

The Dairy Act 2000 is being amended by this bill. Under this act Dairy Food Safety Victoria is established as the licensing body and regulator. Currently the act only applies to milk from cows, sheep, goats and buffalo. Clause 5 of the bill amends the definition to cover milk from any milking animal excluding humans. It will amend the definition of 'dairy farm’ to include premises where an animal is kept or milked for the purpose of producing milk for sale. There has been a lot of talk around camel milk in previous contributions. I would just like to let the house know that at the Shepparton saleyards in 2015, 200 camels that had been rounded up in outback Australia were sold in response to a growing interest in the production of camel milk. There are now a number of properties in the Goulburn Valley that produce camel milk and certainly others more broadly across Australia. Feral camels have been deemed to be a huge problem in outback environments. They have been very difficult to manage. They are in very large flocks as they travel across the country, and there have been a number of methods that have been used to try to control them. So to provide an opportunity for some of them to be farmed for some financial gain and the production of milk that is actually popular and sought after is a great opportunity.

I think it is fair to say that in many areas of regional Australia we are looking for new industries that are of high value, and that would be particularly the case where we have irrigation industries. The price of water now is so high that in any farming enterprise that relies on irrigation you need to be producing something that really gives you back the value of the water. Things like camel’s milk and other specialty products do it. And just in relation to that I would like to refer to the amendments to the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 that are included in this piece of legislation. Other legislation debated later in the week will deal with various amendments about access to medicinal cannabis, but this particular piece of legislation and this act will provide an authority scheme for the cultivation and processing of low-THC cannabis—industrial hemp—for non-therapeutic purposes. Industrial hemp is grown in Victoria mainly for the production of fibre and hemp seed. But again just in terms of the developments that are taking place in regional Victoria in terms of the production of new products, new crops and new industries, Shepparton has just recently been selected as a place where medicinal cannabis will indeed be grown. The Greater Shepparton City Council has just recently approved the permit for a very large farm just outside of Shepparton, where medicinal cannabis will be grown under cover in glasshouses and really provide a very significant impetus for our community. Of course it is a way of producing a crop with very efficient water use, under cover. If you look at what has happened in other countries in terms of food production and specialty crops, there is an area in Spain where over 200 square kilometres of the countryside is under protected cropping—in other words, under glasshouses. There is the opportunity to expand industries into newer areas and to utilise more efficient ways of farming that are not only dealing with water use but also dealing with a whole range of other aspects of climate and weather that can be so damaging to crops, as we all know, in our own regions, where we have drought, storms and floods and hail that will damage fruit crops at the most unexpected times. And so this is a welcome addition to the agricultural productivity in the Shepparton region. 

Moving on to other aspects of the bill, I think it is important to note that there are amendments to the Meat Industry Act 1993. This is another amendment that in some ways creates another opportunity to grow an industry in a regional area. It expands the definition of 'abattoir’, and the definitions of 'general meat processing facility’ and 'pet food processing facility’ are being amended. So, for instance, an abattoir will now include: a vehicle used for slaughter of consumable animals for human consumption … The Meat Industry Act 1993 establishes the licensing system enabling the adoption of national food safety standards for the hygienic production and processing of meat for human consumption and for pet food. It has not previously provided for the slaughter and processing of meat to be undertaken in vehicles, even though this could have occurred in compliance with the national food safety standards. So there are quite a few business opportunities which could be enabled by these changes. Firstly, there has been a decrease in the number of abattoirs across Victoria, with some closing down completely and others only operating for a small part of the year. This has led to a call on the government to enable an appropriate framework to be put in place so that small operators can kill and process meat for human consumption or for pet food. Farmers markets have also become extremely popular in recent years, and the opportunities for farmers to sell their own animal products will be facilitated by these amendments. As camel milk creates a new business opportunity, so too will farmers’ ability to use vehicles as mobile butchers, effectively. This will create diversification in the industry.

This legislation also supports the government’s implementation of the Sustainable Hunting Action Plan. It will enable hunters to use game harvested by them and also process the meat for their personal consumption. It will also make clear that the processing of wild deer that is not intended for sale is not captured by the licensing requirements. It is estimated that there are anywhere between 750 000 and 1 million sambar deer roaming in the High Country of Victoria. Hunting of the deer is seen as very important because of the population explosion and the damage that they do to the environment. They are spreading right across the state, and indeed in our own Barmah forest up on the Murray River there have been sambar deer seen to be roaming around. Given that venison has some popularity and can be consumed by humans, it is again practical to enable the killing, the butchering and the sale of that animal. It should be noted that clause 62 of the bill now provides that a person does not commit an offence if the meat processing facility solely processes game that is not intended for sale. There are many bills that have been affected by this legislation. I have chosen to refer to those which I think will have a positive impact on regional communities to the extent that they actually are creating opportunity for the development of growth in an industry or a new aspect to an industry, something that we really know that we need out there in regional communities. I commend the bill to the house.

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