Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 | Second Reading

Ms SULEYMAN (St Albans) (18:45:28) — I rise today to speak on the Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 and echo the sentiments that have already been made on this side of the house. The Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 amends 11 acts and repeals another. Many of these amendments are technical in nature and update the acts to reflect changes made to other acts. They sharpen definitions but most importantly get rid of red tape, make the process far more clear and also modernise numerous regulations governing agriculture, fisheries and game management to bring the regulations into line with current approaches and practices that meet the needs of today. While many changes are administrative, they reflect the government’s work to support agriculture industries to grow and develop.

One of the changes is the introduction of mobile abattoirs. This means there will be changes to the meat processing industry. Of course there have not been many changes over the past decade, but we will now see the industry looking at new ways of managing stock. Mobile abattoirs have been proposed, and they are currently being used in the United States. These changes amend the Meat Industry Act 1993 to allow the slaughter of animals and processing of meat to occur in mobile abattoirs, making it convenient and accessible and most importantly broadening this industry. Of course it is important to note that the mobile facilities will be required to meet the same food safety, biosecurity and animal welfare standards that apply to fixed premises, and that is very important to note.

My electorate of St Albans is not known for its primary industry, but of course it is a very big consumer. I am very proud of my local food outlets and my fresh food markets, like Big Sam’s market, which is an icon in St Albans and has been running for many, many years providing fresh and high-quality produce to the western suburbs. But also St Albans is a vibrant community and is renowned for its food industry. I just have to note Alfrieda Street, St Albans, and Hampshire Road, Sunshine, where we have so many quite popular and high-standard restaurants, in particular Vietnamese restaurants, which I am very proud of.

We have heard from this side a number of speakers talking about camel milk. I know the member for Narre Warren South mentioned that in today’s day and age we have a number of types of milk, including soy milk, almond milk and rice milk, and now we have three camel milk dairies in Victoria. Of course camel milk is known in Middle Eastern culture. It is quite impressive to see that this industry is now making its mark in Victoria. Currently they are regulated as food businesses by local council, and the changes proposed in this bill will require them to be regulated by Dairy Food Safety Victoria. It is going to be interesting to see how this market expands and how popular it will become. I have heard today that camel milk is important and is apparently good for health and wellbeing.

I will not be tempted to try camel milk, but I could be persuaded if it has certain health benefits.

Many of my friends and constituents are quite committed recreational fishers. I always hear great reports about our government’s commitment to recreational fishing, particularly the Target One Million plan in which we invested a record $46 million into fishing. What we will see in this particular legislation is a number of amendments to the Fisheries Act 1995. There is a real commitment to making sure that we continue this industry and that everybody has the opportunity to fish recreationally. I am not a fisher myself, but it is important to note that many of my constituents and friends and family are.

I have already spoken on how important biosecurity is and how we must improve it. The amendments in this bill improve the capacity to respond to plants and animal biosecurity risks. This is absolutely critical. It is important to note that the Victorian Auditor-General found that funding for core livestock biosecurity was cut by 49 per cent between 2009–10 and 2014–15 and that the number of animal and health officers shrunk by 42 per cent. That is in real contrast to the Andrews Labor government’s last two budgets where we committed $44.4 million to maintaining crucial agricultural biosecurity. That is because we know the importance of making sure that we are protected from outbreaks such as foot-and-mouth disease. This is critical for our community and state. Most importantly it protects exports, which means protecting regional jobs and providing confidence within these industries.

We have also invested a record $4 billion into regional Victoria, and it is really important to take note of that in this year’s budget. Also, in the last three budgets we have continued to invest in regional Victoria, because we know how important it is to continue to invest, to continue the growth and to make sure that we are providing the jobs of today.

The Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill is important to make sure that the approaches and practices meet today’s needs. We have not seen any changes for a long time in this sector. Noting how important this sector is, it is necessary to make sure that livestock and farmers are protected. They are part of a growing industry that provides much to the wider community and also to international markets. This area can continue to grow and prosper. We have seen in the Asian and Middle Eastern markets how important the export of livestock has been and what it means to regional Victoria, and in particular to local farmers. It is important to make sure that there are the right processes in place and the amendments meet the demands and challenges of today.

As I said previously, St Albans is not known as a primary industry area, but we are big consumers of primary industry. We enjoy the produce, and we are very thankful and grateful for the high-quality standards of the produce of this state. We want to make sure that our health and wellbeing is at the forefront and that farms and jobs continue to grow in regional Victoria for the wider benefit of all of Victoria. I commend this bill to the house.