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HEA Amendment Bill second reading speech

HEA Amendment Bill second reading speech

Damien O’Connor: Mr Speaker, I move that the New Zealand Horticulture Export Authority Amendment Bill (No. 2) now be read a second time.

The Bill was introduced into the House in March 2003 and had its first reading on 2 April, after which it was referred to the Primary Production Committee for consideration. I thank the Committee for its work on the Bill, and for reporting it back quickly.

The Bill has three main objectives.

The first objective is to provide the kiwifruit industry with the option of bringing the export of kiwifruit for consumption in Australia under the framework of the New Zealand Horticulture Export Authority Act 1987. The second objective is to prevent quantitative restrictions from being imposed by export marketing strategies approved under the Act. The third objective is to make three administrative improvements to the Act.

The Select Committee received 362 written submissions on the Bill.

I am pleased to inform the House that the vast majority of these submissions supported the Bill allowing kiwifruit exports for consumption in Australia to be prescribed under the Act in time to apply that framework from next April, which is the start of the 2004 export season. Of the 352 submissions that supported this, 341 were submitted by individual kiwifruit growers and focussed only on this objective. The other 11 submissions supporting this proposal were from kiwifruit exporters and kiwifruit industry organisations.

I am also pleased with the strong support demonstrated to the Committee by the kiwifruit industry. No doubt this support means that I can soon expect an application from the kiwifruit industry for an Order-in-Council to bring kiwifruit exports for consumption in Australia under the Act. It also indicates the kiwifruit industry's desire for this Bill to be passed sooner rather than later.

The second objective of the Bill is to prevent quantitative export restrictions being imposed under the Act. This objective arises from the need to ensure the Act is consistent with New Zealand's international obligations. This was the most controversial objective of the Bill.

Sixteen submissions to the Committee commented on this objective of the Bill. Of these, the Committee received seven submissions opposing removal of the provisions allowing quantitative restrictions, while a further eight submissions proposed consequential amendments and one submission expressed support for removing these provisions.

The consequential amendments proposed to the Committee were insertion of the words 'market development' and 'flow planning' into the section of the Act that states what an export marketing strategy can be about.

In respect of the proposed consequential amendments I support the Committee's recommendation that the words 'market development' be inserted into the Bill. Section 6 of the Act states that the primary function of the Horticulture Export Authority is to 'promote the effective export marketing of horticultural products' as prescribed under the Act. The concept of market development is central to the Act, and an export marketing strategy under the Act should clearly be able to include such proposals.

I also support the Committee's recommendation to amend the Bill to clearly state that quantitative restrictions are not permitted under the Act, and to not insert the words 'flow planning'. These recommendations remove any uncertainty about whether quantitative restrictions may be imposed under the Act.

The third objective of the Bill accounts for the majority of clauses in the Bill. These clauses provide three administrative improvements to the Bill. The first improvement is to the Horticulture Export Authority's statutory decisionmaking processes. Currently, the Act provides for reconsideration of decisions only in relation to applications for export licences. The Bill extends this reconsideration right to cover HEA decisions on export licence conditions and applications for exemptions under the Act.

The second administrative improvement relates to the powers of the arbitrator, who under the Act considers appeals of the Horticulture Export Authority's statutory decisions. This amendment provides the arbitrator with discretion to award all the costs of an appeal. This overcomes the narrow interpretation that has set a precedent on what costs can currently be awarded under the Act.

The last administrative amendment is to allow the Horticulture Export Authority to cancel redundant export licences. This will allow the Authority to ensure that its public register of exporters remains up to date, and it will save the Authority's time and money by ceasing its involvement with those businesses which no longer export particular products under the Act.

The Committee received support for the Bill making these three administrative improvements from key submitters, being the Horticulture Export Authority, the Horticulture Exporters Council, and the joint submission from the Fruitgrowers Federation and Vegetable Growers Federation.

I would like to thank the Primary Production Committee for its consideration of the Bill, for reporting the Bill back to Parliament on 19 August 2003, and for proposing amendments that improve the Bill.

I commend this Bill to the House.

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