The red meat, grain, horticulture, live exports, fish and dairy sectors have been pushing for major improvements to make the export process more efficient and cut red tape.
It represents the biggest reforms in this area in a generation and would achieve a world-class Australian agricultural export sector.
Combined, these export industries are worth $30 billion to the Australian economy.
But the process of certifying agricultural produce for export is in desperate need of modernisation, with an outdated IT system and a heavy reliance on time-consuming paperwork rather than electronic processing.
The legislation has not been updated in more than two decades and there are concerns about recent difficulties with recruiting new staff to the inspection workforce.
The reforms were developed by six industry taskforces established by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke.
Examples of the reforms sought by industry include:
- increasing the use of electronic processing, rather than inefficient paperwork. Under the reforms, more than 89% of the 330,000 clearance certificates to be issued next financial year would be done electronically
- remove duplication in auditing and inspection requirements between state, Commonwealth and customers. This will particularly benefit the horticulture, dairy and seafood industries
- grains could be cleared for export much earlier in the process. Previously they were cleared at the last minute, which meant exporters had to pay demurrage costs if the loading of a vessel was delayed due to clearance issues.
The reforms would also provide additional help to expand access to trade markets and support work with international trading partners to outline Australia’s improved export certification systems.
“We want to help support local jobs in these important export industries by driving efficiencies and cutting red tape,” Mr Burke said.
“For years, the Coalition government failed to invest in these reforms and our exporters have been left with an outdated system which puts us at a disadvantage globally.
“Industry has designed these reforms and we’ve supported their view that they deserve a world-class export certification system.”
As part of the detailed industry discussions, the Government has also finalised the new fee structure for export certification.
This follows the recommendation in the Beale Review that the Coalition Government’s decision to allow a 40% export subsidy to lapse should not be overturned.
The new fee structure will take effect from July 1 2009.
The meat, dairy, grains, fish and live export sectors have already supported the revised fees.
If the new fee structure is blocked in the Senate, there will be a $40 million hole in the budget which can only be filled by abandoning the reform package.