Time running out for Livecorp levy

15 Sep, 2004 10:00 PM

A SENATE rural committee has recommended amendments to federal legislation that would allow the Livestock Export Corporation (Livecorp) to introduce compulsory levies.

Livecorp is in a race against time to put compulsory levies in place following a big drop in voluntary levies when the Cormo Express levy was imposed and exporters knew a compulsory levy would be introduced.

If the legislation is not passed in time, Livecorp could run out of reserves and have to find alternative funding to meet its research and development commitments.

The Federal election called for October 9 does not have a timeframe for when parliament could be recalled to get the legislation through the Senate.

There have been some reports producer levies might have to be used to fund the corporation until the legislation has been passed, however Livecorp director Steve Meerwald said he did not believe it would be necessary.

Livecorp has proposed compulsory levy rates be $2.50/head for cattle, 30c/head for sheep and 25c/head for goats.

It estimated under such rates, the levy would provide $2.5 million in the 2004-05 financial year.

The Senate rural committee which released its report just before the election was called recommended the statutory agreement between Livecorp and Commonwealth be tabled in both houses of parliament within 14 days of it being signed.

And any subsequent variations to the agreement and an annual statement of Livecorp's compliance with the provisions of the statutory funding agreement should also be tabled.

The committee also recommended the bill be amended to place a statutory requirement on the Agriculture Minister to table Livecorp's annual report in both houses of parliament.

The committee said transparency and accountability would be critical to improving the industry's image in the wake of the Cormo Express incident.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Gavan O'Connor said the agreement was to impose conditions on Livecorp to ensure proper use of funds raised through an industry levy and funding provided by the Commonwealth for research and development.

He said Agriculture Minister Warren Truss approved an arrangement where the Commonwealth could not access Livecorp records to monitor compliance with the agreement without giving the company five days written notice.

"Labor believes the government must have access without notice for such purposes," he said.

A spokesman for Mr Truss said the Senate committee was given only two draft funding agreements for its deliberations, and the minister would not approve such an agreement until the industry had been consulted.

He said it was a shame the Labor Party was looking to make the trade a political football instead of working to secure its future.

Australian Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett issued a dissenting report which argued the proposed amendments to the legislation did nothing to address serious concerns about the live animal export trade.



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